Conner's "Victim" Status Questionable

by Holly
TAI Member

This link is to an interesting April 2003 column by Cal Thomas about Scott Peterson and the "special circumstances" case. The heart of the opinion is that in a federal court, abiding by its own ruling on the legal definition of "personhood", Conner the unborn may remain a fetus and lose his special status as victim, if an appeal goes to a U.S. District Court.

And if that happens, California vs. Scott Peterson may be limited to a one victim case and disqualify it from the Death Penalty if there is a new trial - which there will likely be. At issue is the definition adapted by the Supreme Court relevant to defining what makes a person, legally. Conner does not make the cut.

Any Bush administration/Sharon Rocha statute would not apply, since the alleged murder occurred before the new legislation.

If Scott is remanded for a new trial and the state must drop the victim, fetus Conner, then there will be quite a different look to the trial. For one thing, forget any mention of "Conner". Forget any autopsy results, any photos of the doll-like corpse and on stand weeping by his expectant grandmother, about how his loss affected her. None of that will be allowed.

Forget the corpse discovery by a dog walker except as a matter of crime scene investigation.

Any weight given to the pregnant status of the only victim - Laci - will be extremely limited and may not rate a mention at all, except as her physical condition as a pregnant woman. You can forget seeing Conner's nursery, his sonogram photo or any of the other Conner devices used to demonize the defendant at trial. Forget about the state being allowed to cite anti-fatherhood references except in a very limited fashion.

And without Conner - what does the state really have? Almost nothing. They have a dead pregnant woman and no issue of her pregnancy, Conner, or coffin birth will be part of the new trial. And if a higher court rules that the media and the state prosecutors relied too heavily on Conner as a death penalty hook - there may not be a new trial at all.

And Geragos needs to recognize the federal issue too. He has also promoted a Conner birth and Conner personhood and that may have been a strategic error.

In the end, just the issue of fetus Conner may make it impossible to re-try Scott Peterson. He may emerge from Death Row a free and exonerated man, because the state pandered too much to community emotion and failed to recognize the larger legal issues.

In a conviction built on raw emotion and few forensic facts, dead baby (upgraded from fetus) Conner was a necessary ingredient to make jurors hate Peterson. Just listen to former juror, Rochelle Nice, who referred to the fetus as "Little Man" and went on to justify her vote by suggesting the person they trusted most should have protected them, not killed them. That is pure emotionalism based on mother and son victims and not one bit of thinking about the lack of evidence.

That proved the emotional prejudice built around dead Conner and calculated by the state worked - but in another trial it won't be there at all, if the victim count is halved.