The Rush to Judgment

A criminal investigation is only as good as the integrity and judgment of its investigators. Within 48 hours of the 911 call reporting Laci a missing person, and by their own admission under oath, the chief investigators in this case had already decided that Scott Peterson murdered his wife and unborn child and steadfastly refused to follow leads in any other direction.

The real tragedy of this case is that some of those leads may have resulted in Laci's rescue from her abductors. Laci might still be alive today, enjoying her son's first holiday season, had not the Modesto LE been so hell-bent on proving an innocent person guilty of a murder that hadn't even been committed yet. It's Scott Peterson that should be filing a wrongful-death suit -- against the Modesto LE.

Police Investigators face an age-old problem -- finding the evidence to prove their primary suspect did in fact commit the crime. The Modesto LE seem to have found a way around that problem. If no evidence exists to convict your suspect, plant it. Now, there are two ways to plant evidence. One deals with putting actual physical items in a certain place OR tampering with evidence to make it yield different. The other way is to plant the idea that evidence exists, when, in fact, it does not.

Planting the idea that evidence exists is quite easy when you have a media and a public with a presumption of guilt mentality. First, you discredit the suspect so that regardless of what the suspect does, the media, and in turn the public, interprets it as evidence of guilt. Second, you leak information about "evidence" collected that is certain to convict the suspect once the case goes to trial.

Of course this evidence will never appear in court. It can't, because it doesn't exist. Its purpose is not to convict the suspect in a court-room trial, but to convict the suspect in the court of public opinion. The intent is to put enough media and public pressure on the suspect to compel a confession, or some ridiculously stupid act that will, in itself, prove the suspect is guilty.

If the planted evidence fails in this purpose, and the primary suspect stubbornly refuses to confess or do something stupid . . . well, at least the jury pool has been permanently polluted, making a conviction in the absence of real evidence a reasonable expectation. This makes it a win-win situation for LE.

Some are not alarmed at this effort to convict a suspect in the court of public opinion. They argue that evidence presented at trial will correct any false conclusions. The United States Supreme Court disagrees. In Irwin vs. Dodd, the Court stated:

The influence that lurks in an opinion once formed is so persistent that it unconsciously fights detachment from the mental processes of the average man. (qtd. in Motion for Change of Venue, 17.25)

The Court goes on to say that individuals who believe they can still be fair and impartial, "where so many, so many times, admitted prejudice, such a statement of impartiality can be given little weight" (Motion, 18.1-2).

The millions across America whose opinions have been formed by false and misleading information will not sit as jurors to judge Scott Peterson. But they do form the public that he must deal with subsequent to his acquittal. They are the employers, co-workers, neighbors, creditors, and landlords that he must deal with the rest of his life -- all convinced he is guilty of a double murder he did not commit. An acquittal will not change their minds. That is gross injustice.

Some justify this injustice because in some instances it enables LE to prosecute a real criminal. In recent history, this tactic has led to the horrific victimization of Richard Jewell, Richard Ricci, and the Ramsey's. Other lesser-known victims face similar fates at the hands of an LE so convinced they are correct that they pursue a suspect no matter how weak the evidence.

It's time for this injustice to stop -- not just in Modesto, not just in California, but all across America!