updated 2/25/2004 3:51:58 PM ET 2004-02-25T20:51:58

Scott Peterson’s double-murder trial will last five months, a judge said Wednesday, with 200 potential jurors due in court next Thursday for what promises to be a long selection process.

Judge Alfred A. Delucchi announced those details before lawyers resumed arguing over the admissibility of evidence from cadaver-sniffing dogs. Prosecutors maintain the dogs provided important clues to how Peterson allegedly disposed of his wife’s body, while the defense argues the canines are unreliable.

On Wednesday, testimony continued from Eloise Anderson, who trained a Labrador retriever that sniffed Peterson’s boat and warehouse for signs that his pregnant wife had been there. Court documents said the dog, Twist, showed only “mild interest” in Peterson’s boat, where prosecutors allege he carried his wife’s body before dumping her in San Francisco Bay.

Defense lawyer Mark Geragos wants the judge to toss out all evidence gathered by tracking dogs.

Anderson first took the stand Tuesday, following extensive testimony from Cindee Valentin, whose bloodhound was called in to find Laci Peterson after her disappearance on Dec. 24, 2002.

Valentin’s dog, Merlin, tried to track Laci Peterson’s scent on Dec. 26 from the Modesto home where prosecutors allege Scott Peterson killed her. Though Merlin soon lost her scent, the dog initially ran in the middle of the road — rather than on the sidewalk where a person would walk — leading Valentin to conclude Laci Peterson left in a vehicle.

A week later, investigators brought Merlin to a rented warehouse where Peterson told police he stopped Christmas Eve morning before going fishing on San Francisco Bay. The dog followed a path from the warehouse to Interstate 580 — one route from Modesto to the area where the bodies of Laci Peterson and their unborn son surfaced in April.

Questions of a dog's life
Days after the bodies were found, authorities arrested Scott Peterson and charged him with two counts of murder. Prosecutors allege he drove his wife’s body to the bay, weighted it down with concrete he kept at the warehouse and sank it.

Defense lawyer Pat Harris questioned Valentin’s credentials and Merlin’s experience. He said factors including the dog’s mood could have led to mistakes.

“Sometimes a dog just wants to go home, lie on the couch, eat Milk-Bones and watch ‘Lassie’ reruns,” Harris said.

Valentin said her dog was well trained, and she could recognize when he picked up a scent.

Harris hinted that investigators were on a single-minded pursuit to get Peterson. He said Merlin picked up Laci Peterson’s scent outside the warehouse, but detectives stopped the dog because he was headed in the wrong direction — an episode Valentin acknowledged was true.

Affair blamed for murder
In the first detailed description of their case, prosecutors charged in court filings that Scott Peterson’s affair with a massage therapist drove him to murder his pregnant wife.

Defense attorneys said Tuesday the document contained “out-and-out falsehoods.” Prosecutors wrote that Peterson’s affair and his conflicting statements about it to police and the media were sufficient to show a motive.

However, the prosecution documents filed Monday do not provide full details to support the prosecution theory, and even with jury selection scheduled to start next Monday, prosecutors have revealed little about their case, parts of which they described in the filing as “circumstantial.”

Prosecutors sketched broad outlines of what they believe led Scott Peterson to kill his pregnant wife after Peterson’s lawyer asked a judge to disregard statements Peterson made to the media following his wife’s disappearance.

The document cites Peterson’s “romancing” of masseuse Amber Frey in the period before Laci Peterson disappeared on Dec. 24, 2002.

The bodies of Laci Peterson and her unborn son later washed up on a San Francisco Bay shore.

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