The People Rest
October 6, 2004
After calling 175 witnesses to prove its case against Scott Peterson, the People rested on Tuesday, October 5, 2004.
Rick Distaso, lead ADA, said in his opening statement that the People's case against Scott was based entirely on circumstantial evidence. True to his word, People didn't call a single eye witness that saw Scott Peterson commit the crimes he has been charged with -- not the murder, not the removal of the bodies from the crime scene, not the transport of the bodies from the crime scene to the locations where they were found. No one saw him doing anything suspicious during the time period the crime was committed.
But that is okay. Circumstantial evidence is just as valid as eye-witness testimony. Having a case built entirely on circumstantial evidence is not the problem. The problem is, not all circumstantial evidence is created equal. Distaso would have us believe that any circumstance that appeared suspicious to the police is evidence that Scott committed the crimes. That just is not the case.
I'd like to illustrate how faulty the circumstantial evidence is in this case by elaborating on an analogy Judge Delucchi used.
There's only you and a youngster in the room. You have to go answer the phone and you tell the youngster: 'Don't eat the pie!' But when you return, there is a slice of pie missing and the youngster has cherry pie on his face. Although you don't see the child eat the pie, you can infer that the child ate the pie from circumstantial evidence.
What appears to be cherry pie on the youngster's face is
reasonable cause for suspicion.
But, is it reasonable to continue to suspect the youngster when test results prove the red goop on his face was strawberry jam, not cherry pie, and the knife used to cut the pie does not have his fingerprints on it, and the contents of his stomach have no trace of cherry pie?
Appearances can be deceiving. That's why potential items of evidence are sent to labs for testing, to be sure they are really what they appear to be. Over and over again, tests on every item sent in for testing that appeared to link Scott with Laci's disappearance/murder came back negative.
Undaunted by such lack of physical evidence, MPD, under Grogan's direction, mounted a media campaign and spy network to put intense psychological pressure on Scott to compel a confession or entrap him into making incriminating statements. 3000 phone calls captured on wiretaps, the girlfriend and Rocha family members cooperating as spies to record hundreds of conversations, friends enlisted to ask Scott certain questions and report his answers back to them -- the result? No confessions, no incriminating statements.
The MPD invaded every nook and cranny of Scott Peterson's life, looking for even the remotest connection to Laci's disappearance. Drug connections were imagined, then proven non-existent. Financial motives were imagined, then proven non-existent. Love motives were imagined, then proven non-existent.
They used ground surveillance and GPS devices to monitor his every move. They imagined his visits to the Bay were some sinister return to the scene of the crime, totally discounting his visits to other search sites and the physical searches he conducted himself.
Absolutely certain that Scott dumped Laci's body in the Bay on December 23-24, MPD hired a hydrologist to help determine where Laci's body might be, to facilitate their searches. They spent days with sophisticated side scan sonar equipment and divers searching the area where they were certain she lay on the bottom of the Bay, anchored with four 8.5 lb homemade anchors. A ME from San Francisco told them that much weight would never keep a body the size of Laci submerged, and days of searching yielded nothing but debris. But, the MPD remained undaunted by this fruitless effort.
Finally, when the bodies were found, they re-employed the hydrologist to tell them the location where Laci and Conner separated so they could search for the anchors they were so sure Scott used to weight her down and the missing body parts. He developed a high probability area based on Conner's wind drift trajectory, but couldn't trace a trajectory for Laci from the same point. Undaunted, MPD employed a massive search effort utilizing the most experienced divers and the most sophisticated equipment in the entire United States -- a search that found items as small as soda cans, but no anchors and no body parts.
Still undaunted, Rick Distaso called 175 witnesses to tell the Jury that despite all these failures to produce evidence, he knows Scott Peterson murdered Laci and Conner because, well, he looks guilty. Look at the red goop all over his face, and look at that missing piece of pie.
No, not all circumstantial evidence is created equal, and the circumstantial evidence presented by the People is not even remotely connected to the commission of a crime, much less to the murders of Laci and Conner.
People rested in a case which never should have been prosecuted.