updated 6/2/2004 10:25:21 AM ET 2004-06-02T14:25:21

Guests: Jennifer Jones, Michael Fleeman, Art Patterson, Pat Brown



DEBORAH NORVILLE, HOST (voice-over):  Scott Peterson faces the jury. 

For more than a year, prosecutors have been preparing to prove this man is a cold-blooded killer. 

Did Scott Peterson murder his pregnant wife Laci?  Is there enough evidence for prosecutors?  The answer may lie in a never before heard tape in the defendant‘s own words.

SCOTT PETERSON, ACCUSED OF MURDER:  I‘ll see you in a bit, Sweetie. 

Love you, bye.

NORVILLE:  But the defense claims Scott‘s been framed. 

MARK GERAGOS, SCOTT PETERSON‘S ATTORNEY:  It‘s our fervent hope to find the actual perpetrators. 

NORVILLE:  Who will jurors believe?  Tonight the case against Scott Peterson. 

Plus, are pregnant women somehow more at risk to be victims of domestic abuse?  Well, meet one criminal profiler who says what happened to Laci isn‘t that unusual. 

Tonight, the facts behind one of the most speculate speculated cases in recent history. 

PETERSON:  I had absolutely nothing to do with Laci‘s disappearance. 

ANNOUNCER:  From Studio 3-K in Rockefeller Center, Deborah Norville.


NORVILLE:  And good evening. 

It has been 17 months since Laci Peterson disappeared from her home in Modesto, California.  She was nearly eight months pregnant at the time. 

It was Christmas Eve, 2002, and three months later, her body and her baby‘s body were recovered from the San Francisco Bay. 

Today, the double-murder trial of her husband, Scott Peterson, began in Redwood City, California.  Did the 31-year-old fertilizer salesman kill his wife and their unborn child?

In opening arguments today, the prosecution laid out what it called a series of lies that Scott Peterson told police. 

Prosecutor Rick Distaso said when Peterson was asked about the fishing trip, he said he took the day his wife vanished, he couldn‘t tell police what he‘d been fishing for.  And he said Peterson told some people that he‘d been golfing that day, but later said he was fishing. 

Joining me now is Michael Fleeman.  He‘s the author of “Laci: Inside the Laci Peterson Murder.”  He‘s also a reporter for “People” magazine.  Also with us this evening, Jennifer Jones, a reporter for KGO Radio in San Francisco.  She‘s following the trial from Redwood City and was in the courtroom today. 

Thanks both of you for being with us. 

I want to start with you first, Jennifer.  What was the general mood in court?  This has been such a high-profile case. 

JENNIFER JONES, KGO RADIO CORRESPONDENT:  I think people were really surprised with the fact that the prosecution didn‘t come out with some very emotional, very sensational opening statements today. 

The deputy district attorney, Rick Distaso, was extremely by the book.  It almost seemed militant in a sense.  He laid everything out very much, A, B, and C, but he‘s got a circumstantial case here.  And a lot of legal experts that I talked to today said, really, that‘s about all that he could do. 

He has to be very deliberate with the facts that he has.  He has to go on those and he has to convince the jury that that circumstantial evidence is enough to, in fact, convict Mr. Peterson. 

NORVILLE:  But I gather from the attitude of some of the jurors sitting there, it was like watching the worst college professor‘s lecture you could have imagined, that it was tedious, that it was long, that it was monotone, and that at times some of the jurors looked like they were—they were losing interest. 

JONES:  They did.  There were a couple of jurors who were yawning.  There was one juror in particular who had leaned all the way back in his chair and was much more checking out the audience than he was paying attention to what the prosecution was laying out. 

So that in and of itself, you could see also sort of a smile on the defense‘s face.  They—you could tell felt like today was very much a victory for them. 

The only thing that kind of seemed to keep the interest of the jurors was when the prosecution played a few of the tapes that—the secretly recorded phone conversations, one of them with Scott Peterson and Amber Frey. 

That one seemed to sort of spark their interest.  It didn‘t say a whole lot at this point, but it did give the prosecution just a little bit of an insight to the jurors, what their case would have going in it. 

NORVILLE:  Michael, you have literally written the book on this case, having written the Laci Peterson story that came out earlier this year.  How much is the publicity about this trial going to impact the work that the jury has to do over the next several months?

MICHAEL FLEEMAN, AUTHOR, “INSIDE THE LACI PETERSON MURDER”:  Well, I think the single biggest piece of publicity that‘s going to hurt the prosecution was a suggestion by the attorney general that this is a slam-dunk case.  That‘s when he said when Scott was arrested. 

Right now what I see is a very slow, calm, methodical circumstantial case being built, but there‘s no slamming and there‘s no dunking. 

NORVILLE:  And—and it‘s interesting, when you look at the jurors, they clearly know about the case.  One of the alternates even had seen the Scott Peterson movie that was on one of the cable channels.  I guess you wouldn‘t want a jury that was unaware of at least the basics of this case?

FLEEMAN:  Well, so far the prosecution is just saying everything that we pretty much already know with a little bit more detail.  But I‘m surprised, as the other woman was, that the extent of the detail here, and I feel like the prosecution is setting itself up for probably some problems later on. 

NORVILLE:  Jennifer, you mentioned that it was very methodical, very by the book, just evidence, evidence, evidence.  And it took so long that later today the judge announced that, indeed, the defense won‘t be making its opening argument until tomorrow morning. 

I‘m guessing the overnight advantage is significant here. 

JONES:  Absolutely.  I mean, basically today the defense team has been able to see every single thing that the prosecution has.  Every little bit.  They have a huge team of attorneys that are in there today, and every single one of them is taking tedious notes on this. 

They‘re going to have an entire evening to go over every little piece of evidence that the prosecution put out there, and figure out a way to make sure that it shows that there was some other reason for it. 

And of course, if there is a side of guilt and a side of innocence, the jury is instructed to go with the possibility of innocence. 

NORVILLE:  And this is a death penalty case.  There are two murders that he‘s being tried for, and he could be sentenced to death for one or both of them.

Let‘s talk about some of the evidence that was presented today during the opening statements by the prosecution. 

There was one point when a photograph of Scott Peterson and Amber Frey was put up on the screen and Peterson looked at it and to the police had said, “That‘s supposed to be me?” in a somewhat sarcastic voice. 

JONES:  Right.  He had said at one point that he thought that maybe someone put it up on the Internet and just did a really good job of it, because he said that wasn‘t him.

So for a long time he had denied, he denied to a number of investigators that he had any sort of affair.  He denied that he and Laci had any marital problems whatsoever.  So this picture today he kind of glanced up at it and glanced down. 

Scott Peterson has, for the most part, in spite of all the pictures that have been shown, has been extremely calm in the courtroom. 

NORVILLE:  And Michael Fleeman, you investigated Scott Peterson‘s life thoroughly in the process of putting your book together.  Were there marital problems between Scott and Laci?

FLEEMAN:  Well, obviously there were from Scott‘s standpoint.  What we have now is...

NORVILLE:  But the kind that anybody could document?  The kind that...

FLEEMAN:  No, no. 

NORVILLE:  ... people say, “Oh, remember the time this happened?”

FLEEMAN:  Nobody—no.  And that‘s what was so remarkable is that everybody painted this picture of perfection for this couple, so much so that it was impossible to believe. 

I think what‘s interesting now is the prosecution is itself presenting a contradictory case.  They‘re saying that Scott Peterson perhaps didn‘t want to have a child.  There was evidence that he was thinking of having a vasectomy, came out today.  Yet at the same time, the prosecution is saying he loved spending time with Amber and her child. 

I can hear the gears in Mark Geragos‘ mind grinding all the way down here.  They‘re going to have a good day tomorrow. 

NORVILLE:  And other evidence that was presented was the prosecution talked about a tarp that was found at the Peterson home after Laci went missing.  A tarp that had been soaked in gasoline. 

I didn‘t know this, and I feel like half these trials we‘re teaching the bad guys how to be bad guys, but apparently, if you soak something in gasoline, it will remove the DNA evidence. 

Michael, would he been astute enough to know that kind of arcane fact? 

FLEEMAN:  Probably, and I think the prosecution is going to say that, thanks to the Internet, he had at his disposal all kinds of information.  They‘ve already presented evidence that he was checking the tides and the water depths of San Francisco Bay shortly after he had talked to Amber Frey.  So clearly he had access to that kind information. 

NORVILLE:  And what about the alibi, Ms. Jones, there was some talk today in the presentation that Peterson had said that when he left the house, Laci was watching a particular episode of “Martha Stewart Living” show, and the episode that he referenced had actually aired the day before. 

JONES:  Right.  He said that she was watching an episode that had to do with meringue, something to do with meringue.  So the prosecution went back and called the CBS network and said, “We want to see what shows have been running.”  And it had run the day prior.  So there were a lot of things with that. 

Also, with Laci, allegedly he that she went and took the dog for a walk.  Although the prosecution today presented medical records that shows Laci‘s doctor had told her, because of dizzy spells that she‘d been having, not to walk the dog.  So that was contradictory, as well. 

NORVILLE:  And when these contradictory pieces of information were coming out, Ms. Jones, how was the jury reacting to them?  Did they perk up?  Did they look interested?  Did they make notes?

JONES:  I have to say no.  I saw very, very few actually taking notes. 

It‘s almost like today is sort of a sensory overload for the jurors. 

They seem to almost be more focused on the larger number of people who are in the audience.  You have Scott‘s family there, Laci‘s family there.  And they—they just kind of seem to be soaking it all in. 

At the same time, the prosecution‘s pace and the delivery of this made it so that it was just sort—it was just sort of monotone about—for lack of a better word.  And so it almost seemed to sort of put them into a trance, and it would really take him to say something or to speak up for him to really get their attention. 

NORVILLE:  So—so all Mark Geragos has to do tomorrow is be entertaining and they‘re going to like him better, aren‘t they?

JONES:  Yes.  Someone said all he has to do is a little lights, camera action, and he may at least get their attention more. 

I mean, he obviously has a struggle ahead, too.  But just based on what the prosecution put out today, I think jurors were maybe looking for something that—I know the media was—something to kind of hang their hat on to say, “Oh that‘s it; that‘s the smoking gun that they may have had all along.”  But they don‘t have that from what we‘ve seen so far. 

NORVILLE:  Michael, another thing.  You know, in the months ramping up to this, Mark Geragos was throwing out a lot of other possibilities and suggesting that the police had Peterson tagged from the get-go and didn‘t look vigorously outside to find anybody else. 

Are they going to be presenting alternative possibilities in court?

FLEEMAN:  From what I‘ve heard so far, no, he doesn‘t have to, because he has so much to work with, with the possibilities that the prosecution has already thrown out. 

I think he‘s going to take a two—a two-pronged attack.  He‘s going to talk about the avenues not taken and why didn‘t they do this?  And then he‘s going to look at the avenues that were taken and mock those and poke holes in the prosecution‘s case. 

I think a classic example is of the prosecution potentially over proving their case today, was showing evidence of all the different places Scott Peterson could have fished but didn‘t between Modesto and San Francisco. 

Well, it‘s almost irrelevant.  Anyone who knows a fisherman knows they‘ll go to the ends of the earth to fish, so that will be an easy one for him to attack tomorrow. 

NORVILLE:  Of course he couldn‘t say when the police asked him what exactly he was fishing for, so I‘m sure the jury took note of that, too. 

Michael Fleeman, Jennifer Jones, thanks so much for being with us tonight.  We appreciate your time.

JONES:  Thank you.

NORVILLE:  Of course, we‘ve got more on the Scott Peterson murder trial.  We‘re going to take a short break.  When we come back, a look at the six men and women who will hold Peterson‘s fate in their hands.  We‘ll check out the jury after this.


NORVILLE:  More now on the murder trial of Scott Peterson, which began today in Redwood City, California. 

It took 12 weeks to pick a jury. 

Joining me now is Art Patterson, a jury consultant for DecisionQuest. 

He‘s also a social psychologist. 

Mr. Patterson, there‘s been so much publicity in this case, how can jurors truly put aside everything they‘ve heard and go in with an open mind?

ARTHUR PATTERSON, JURY CONSULTANT, “DECISIONQUEST”:  Well, that‘s simple; they can‘t.  And that‘s the truth of the matter.

NORVILLE:  So the trick is to find those jurors who have heard things and at least can be persuaded to your point of view, depending on whether you‘re the defense or the prosecution?

PATTERSON:  Well, I think both sides have a hope in this trial and in any trial where there‘s a lot of publicity that jurors will try very hard.  They‘ll use their best skills to overcome what they‘ve read and heard and believe about the case. 

But it‘s unrealistic to think that any human beings could totally set aside what they‘ve read or heard about such a sensational matter. 

NORVILLE:  And don‘t most jurors try to do that?  Aren‘t there surveys that show people genuinely, when given the responsibility to sit in judgment of someone, truly try to do their best job?  It‘s not like those Hollywood movies, “Runaway Jury,” where they‘re trying to skew the verdict?

PATTERSON:  That‘s right.  You know, if you think about people, regular citizens being asked to judge someone, whether it‘s a murder trial or any serious trial at all, most people, the vast majority, use their best abilities to try to be fair and impartial.  They really do try. 

NORVILLE:  And this case, though, I know you worked on the O.J.  Simpson case.  This comes as close to anything we‘ve had had lately in terms of just the amount of publicity, the degree of celebrity that‘s comes to this.  Are there other comparisons to make for O.J. and this case?

PATTERSON:  Well, not just to O.J., but to a whole lot of the celebrity trials.  Martha Stewart case, the Tyco case, while they‘re not murder trials, the jurors realize, both from the amount of publicity, the number of people in the courtroom, that this is unusual.  This isn‘t the everyday trial that they‘re involved in. 

This trial, certainly, the jurors know this is a special event in their lives, and what‘s interesting is, how does each and every juror deal with that?  What impact does that have on them as jurors? 

NORVILLE:  Before we talk about how the jurors are impacted sitting on this case, let‘s talk about the individuals who were there. 

There are 12 men and women, plus six alternates who have been pulled in.  And I want to ask about some of them because it surprised me to see, for instance, that juror No. 4, a former police officer, was selected to sit in jury service. 

PATTERSON:  That is a surprise.  I mean, the conventional wisdom for defense lawyers is that you certainly would not want a former police officer as your juror.

But you know, there‘s another way to view that.  If the defense truly believes that the prosecution doesn‘t have enough good evidence in this case, and that‘s certainly a possibility, then having a police officer who knows what real evidence is and what real evidence isn‘t could be a wonderful thing for the defense on this case, if he is not biased by his experience as a police officer. 

NORVILLE:  Now there are others in there that also surprised me.  For instance, there‘s one woman, juror No. 12, a white woman who is an adoption worker.  And she said of police, quote, “They would rather go to a 10-car pileup than work a child abuse case.” 

Clearly, she‘s not going to be thinking that what the prosecution has to say is all truth and light. 

PATTERSON:  That‘s right.  She had her concerns with the police, but you turn it around, she also is someone who works with children and families and cares very much about—about children being placed in families. 

And here we have the really unfortunate events of the death of the unborn in this case, the fetus, and maybe the prosecution thinks she‘ll be a wonderful juror for them. 

NORVILLE:  What about juror No. 9?  This is a woman who married a convicted killer.  He since died in jail, and she‘s gone on and married someone else about 10 years ago.  But she was married to a convicted killer who was behind bars in prison. 

PATTERSON:  It begins to become almost a novel, an unusual story.  One would think that in picking the jury for a murder trial, you wouldn‘t have a juror who—I believe it was her fiancee who was convicted of killing someone, who went off to prison for that.  That‘s pretty unusual. 

How the prosecution and the defense view that is really a mystery.  I‘m sure they have their reasons.  But it could be very unusual jurors in this case. 

NORVILLE:  I‘m sure they have their reasons for putting this woman in, but I can‘t figure out which side of the ledger she‘s going to be a better juror for, the defense or the prosecution. 

PATTERSON:  That‘s right.  You could make a case for either side.  The prosecution could make the case that here‘s someone who knows that everyday people commit murders, her fiancee. 

For the defense, you could make the case that she‘s been through this, she knows what really happens, she knows what -- (AUDIO GAP).  She may be a good defense juror.  It‘s unusual to have a juror with that type of background sitting in a murder trial. 

NORVILLE:  But of course, all of these 12 people and the six alternates have had to say, “Yes, if the evidence persuades me, I will vote for the death penalty in this case.” 

So they‘re already the kinds of jurors that would be maybe more amenable to a prosecution argument than another kind of case. 

PATTERSON:  That‘s absolutely true.  And it‘s a real problem with our system that those states that have the death penalty. 

It is absolutely true that research shows that jurors who are willing to impose the death penalty—that is, they‘re not opposed to the death penalty.  Jurors who are willing to impose the death penalty are attitudinally very different than jurors who oppose the death penalty.  It makes sense. 

And therefore the jurors who are willing to impose the death penalty tend to be more prosecution oriented, more concerned about crime, more conservative.  And it‘s problem.

NORVILLE:  I read one statement on the Internet today from a very noted legal professional who said that 75 percent of jurors have figured this case out by the time, quote, “opening statements are completed.” 

PATTERSON:  While it‘s true that jurors listen to opening statements and form an opinion about the case, it‘s absolutely not true that they‘ve reached a verdict. 

Our firms conducted research in thousands and thousands of jury trials, and like all human beings, jurors begin to form impressions early in the trial process, but they change their mind as the trial continues, as they hear from witnesses, as they hear the arguments. 

So after opening statements, jurors form opinions, but they certainly have not reached their verdict, not at all. 

NORVILLE:  And finally, briefly, what‘s being done for jurors once the trial is over?  It‘s an enormous burden and takes a lot out of a person to sit in this kind of a trial. 

PATTERSON:  You know, I‘m glad you asked that, because it is an emotionally very difficult experience for jurors to sit on a lengthy trial and especially one involving a murder decision, whether they‘re going to send someone to prison and even take someone‘s life. 

Some judges throughout the country actually do counseling with jurors after the trial and even make referrals to psychologists.  But most judges just aren‘t sensitive to that issue, and that‘s really a problem for jurors. 

NORVILLE:  Absolutely.   Art Patterson, thank you so much for being with us tonight.  We appreciate it. 

And to our viewers, those little video hits were huge thunderstorms that are happening in the New York area as we do this interview. 

Thank you, sir.

When we come back, a frightening thought for young women everywhere.  Could there be a link between pregnancy and violence?  My next guest says there is.  You won‘t want to miss what this criminal profiler has to say, coming up. 



NORVILLE:  The murder of Laci Peterson and her unborn child has focused attention on a largely hidden problem in America: violence to pregnant women. 

A study published in the “Journal of the American Medical Association” in 2001 shows that homicide is a leading cause of death among pregnant women outside of medical complications. 

The report cited that approximately 20 percent of Maryland women who died during pregnancy were murdered. 

Joining me now to talk about why a pregnant woman is at higher risk for spousal abuse or homicide is criminal profiler Pat Brown.  She‘s the CEO of the Sexual Homicide Exchange. 

Ms. Brown, what‘s the link between pregnancy and murder?

PAT BROWN, CRIMINAL PROFILER:  I would say it‘s simply that the future is not what the guy wants, and therefore he has to eliminate the problem.  Unfortunately, the problem is the woman and that unborn child. 

NORVILLE:  So they see murder as the only recourse?  What happened to divorce?

BROWN:  Well, you‘d think that would be one of them, but if you looked at a continuum, for example, we have—at this end of the continuum we have the people who are willing to stay in the marriage, and go to marriage counseling and work it out, because they feel a responsibility to other people. 

Then we go down a little ways and we have the person who says, “Oh, heck with it.  Let‘s just get divorced.  I‘ll pay some money.”

And we get the guy who doesn‘t pay the money, but he gets divorced and kind of goes on the run. 

Then we go a little further down, and we‘ve got the guy who says, “Honey, I‘m going out for a pack of cigarettes,” and then he disappears for 20 years.

And then you get to that other end of the continuum, and you‘ve got the guy who says, “Look, something has got to be eliminated here.  I don‘t want to eliminate myself from the picture, because I like my life.  But she and that baby are in the way, so I‘ll eliminate them from the picture.  And then I can go on and do what I darn well please.” 

NORVILLE:  We know that Scott Peterson had a lover on the side, and we‘ve also heard now in court that he actually said to Amber Frey that he was not interested in having children, that he was thinking of having a vasectomy. 

While those are certainly not the kinds of statements that are going to help augment the defense, it doesn‘t point to him as a murderer?

BROWN:  Well, they certainly don‘t help Scott Peterson either. 

If you—One of the things that really struck me right in the beginning was that Scott said—when Laci went missing, he never said, “Please bring my child back.  Please bring Conner back.” 

Now, this is a child he had seen on the sonogram.  This was a child who was almost ready to be born.  Not some tiny little fetus he couldn‘t relate to.  This was a big baby who had moved and he called Conner. 

Not once did I ever see him say, “Bring my baby boy back alive.”  A very odd thing for a first-time father. 

So I would say those behaviors are darn suspicious.  He didn‘t want a child in his life.  He didn‘t want that lifestyle change.  And he said so to Amber.  That‘s not going to do too well for his defense at all. 

NORVILLE:  So the statistic about the link between pregnancy and homicide, it‘s really all about control?

BROWN:  Well, it‘s about having your future changed in a way you don‘t want it to be changed. 

Women really ought to pay attention to this.  When you get involved with somebody, they are looking at you for the now.  When a guy gets a girlfriend, he‘s looking at what he can get now.

Until he‘s ready to move into the future and say to you, “I want to have a future with you.  I want to marry.  I want children.  I‘m so looking forward to having two boys and two girls and having a little house with a white picket fence.”  Unless he‘s saying that to you, you‘re putting yourself at risk to get pregnant by that guy who just rushed into the relationship.

A lot of women do, and then the guy goes, “What am I going to do?  I‘m going to have child support the rest of my life.  I‘ve got to take care of the baby.  This isn‘t what I wanted.  I just wanted some fun.”

NORVILLE:  But you know where this statistic to me doesn‘t play into the Peterson saga is that Scott and Laci tried for close to five years to conceive.  They had been, both of them, to doctors and specialists and back and forth. 

That doesn‘t strike one as the behavior of a man who was, you know, being dragged into fatherhood with his nails scraping on the walls, unwillingly. 

BROWN:  My guess is that Scott was very good at posing as a loving husband and a possible potential father.  I‘m sure Laci wanted a child, so she said, Scott, this is what I want.  And Scott wanted to pose as that perfect person. 

If he is a psychopath—and he may be—a psychopath knows how to play the game to make other people think he‘s a normal guy.  But all the other behaviors he has show me that he was not interested in becoming a father any time in the near future. 

NORVILLE:  But all of this is circumstantial.  None of this could be brought into the courtroom in any form of evidence, could it? 

BROWN:  Well, I think it can.  Circumstantial evidence is not not evidence. 

What we‘re looking at are probabilities.  Any case is about probabilities.  Even DNA for that matter is about probabilities.  When someone says oh, well, you know, there might be someone else in the world who has a similar DNA, maybe something screwed up, you wonder how that one person that might be from Rhodesia ended up in your neighborhood just a block away, so you look at probabilities. 

Yes, it is—it is possible Scott did not commit this crime, but what are the probabilities of all those things put together, that he had an affair, that he didn‘t want a child at that time, that he was fishing just where her body was found?  Then, you start adding them on and on and on to the point where you say, you know, Scott, I‘m having trouble believing you didn‘t commit this crime.  And that‘s what the prosecution is looking for. 

NORVILLE:  Take this from the micro into the macro.  Are there general signs of the potential individual who would be so unwilling to become a father that they would see murder as the only possible recourse? 

BROWN:  Sure.  These guys are going to be a psychopathic nature.  This is the type of person who forever has only cared about himself.  His rights are the only rights that matter.  He really doesn‘t care what anybody else thinks or does.  He‘s not concerned about other people‘s welfare.

So when you date a guy like this, you will notice that he really doesn‘t care about you that much.  He only cares about himself. 


BROWN:  The family I know has said, oh, he seemed like a nice guy, but these guys are, as I said, good posers.  And Laci seemed to be a really sweet girl, the kind of girl that would go for a guy like this, who will allow him those excuses and will say, well, that‘s just the way he is.

She‘s very, very sweet.  And a guy like this looks for very, very sweet, because he can control her.  And no matter how many times he lies, she will let him get away with it.  And that‘s what you have got, a lying, manipulative creep who only wants what he wants.  If you‘re involved with a guy like that, run.  Run real quick.

NORVILLE:  So the combination of a controlling man and a woman who is a pleaser, at least in some situations, 20 percent of the time in Maryland, could be potentially deadly? 

BROWN:  Well, the 20 percent number is probably not quite exactly correct, because we don‘t why those women were murdered.  One problem with statistics is that we have women who are murder victims for other reasons. 

When you look at women who are murder victims, they are going to tend to be in the younger group.  The younger group tends to be pregnant.  So these could be some girls standing on a porch when a drive-by was shot at them and they got hit in the crossfire.  So we can‘t take that totally seriously, that particular statistic.

But yet we do have a lot of women who are being murdered who are pregnant and later on we will find out that that is exactly the reason they were murdered.  The boyfriend or husband simply wanted them out of the way so they could have the life they had prior to that moment. 

NORVILLE:  A cautionary tale for a lot of women out there. 

BROWN:  Absolutely.

NORVILLE:  Pat Brown, thanks so much for being with us. 

BROWN:  My pleasure, Deborah.

NORVILLE:  When we come back, it looks like Scott Peterson‘s defense may have had a win on the opening day of statements, even they opened their mouth.  Dan Abrams, host of MSNBC‘s “ABRAMS REPORT,” joins me next with that part of the Peterson trial. 


NORVILLE:  Day one of the trial against accused wife killer Scott Peterson.  MSNBC‘s Dan Abrams was inside the courtroom.  He joins me next.


NORVILLE:  Continuing our look at the Scott Peterson double-murder trial, which began today, as the prosecution delivered its opening statements, Dan Abrams, NBC‘s chief legal correspondent, was there in the courtroom in California. 

He joins me now from Redwood City. 

Dan, I just don‘t get this.  There‘s no eyewitness.  There‘s no murder weapon.  They don‘t even know the cause of death for Laci Peterson.  How are they going to prove a capital murder case? 

DAN ABRAMS, NBC CHIEF LEGAL CORRESPONDENT:  Well, Deborah, keep in mind that there are cases that are successfully prosecuted when they don‘t even find a body at all in the case.  Here, at least they have found much of Laci‘s remains.  They found the baby as well. 

Look, the heart of this case is—people keep saying, it‘s circumstantial.  Well, you know what?  Most strong cases are circumstantial.  The prosecutors are going to try and show that Scott Peterson lied a lot in the hours after Laci went missing, that, before Laci went missing, he‘d been lying to his girlfriend, Amber Frey, about his wife being dead and saying that we‘ll be able to spend more time together at the end of January. 

And the prosecutors laid out a whole list of things that he lied about.  He lied, they say, about whether he went golfing or fishing that day, depending on who he talked to.  They didn‘t even know what he was fishing for.  He didn‘t seem to have the right equipment, that he lied about what Laci was supposedly wearing, what kind of jewelry she was wearing when he left the house at 9:30 a.m. 

Remember, prosecutors believe she was already dead at that point, that they believe that he was lying that Laci was watching Martha Stewart on TV, because he said that she was watching Martha Stewart make a lemon meringue.

NORVILLE:  Right. 

ABRAMS:  And they went back and got the tape and Martha Stewart wasn‘t making a lemon meringue on December 24.  So they‘re hoping to bring all these things together so say, it‘s clear he was having an affair, it‘s clear he was lying, and, most importantly, that that body was found less than two miles from where he said that he went fishing that day, 90 miles away from their home in Modesto. 

NORVILLE:  Of the entire laundry list that you just shared, that‘s the only piece of information that really makes a murder case plausible.  We can convict Scott Peterson for being a liar, but you can‘t put him to death for that. 

ABRAMS:  Well, look, putting him to death is a separate question.  This phase is the guilt phase, meaning the jurors are going to have to assess, is he guilty or is he not guilty?

If he is guilty of the crime, then there will be a separate phase for the penalty phase to determine, should he die or not?  But when it comes to... 


ABRAMS:  Yes, go ahead.

NORVILLE:  No, I was just going to say, let‘s talk about some of the stuff that they did find.  They did find Peterson with $10,000 in his pocket when he was finally arrested.  They did find him with dyed hair.  And they did find that tarp that we spoke about earlier on the program that had been soaked in gasoline, something which will remove DNA evidence.  That‘s much more substantial than some of these lies that he told that Amber Frey. 

ABRAMS:  You know, the lies to Amber Frey, I agree with you, just in and of itself, you can dismiss them by saying, look, he was trying to have an affair with a woman, and, as a result, he was lying to her. 

Actually, they found $15,000 in cash on him.  But I‘ve got to tell you, I think the prosecutors have a very weak case when it comes to the idea that he was somehow trying to flee into Mexico.  He was arrested at a golf course. 


ABRAMS:  I mean, the prosecutors say he was arrested just miles from the border.  He was arrested at a golf course.  He had just played golf.  So, of all the arguments they have, the idea that he was sort of on his way to Mexico to me seems to be one of the weakest.  To me, the strongest, in addition to where that body was found, was the question of, why is it that he can‘t get his story straight?

His wife has just gone missing and he‘s telling some friends that he went golfing that day.  He‘s telling other friends that he went fishing that day.  The story about fishing doesn‘t seem to really hold up.  He even said that he stopped fishing because it was raining out.  And the harbor master out there says we didn‘t have any rain. 

So, I mean, I think that all of—you‘re right.  Individually, none of those pieces are going to be enough to convict Scott Peterson.  The question is going to be, do all of them together convince these jurors that he did this beyond a reasonable doubt?

NORVILLE:  And the other question is one that Mark Geragos has put out from the very beginning.  And that is, did prosecution, did the police, did the district attorney target Scott Peterson from the get-go at the expense of other potential leads?  There was a burglary that occurred in the Peterson neighborhood the same day that Laci went missing.  They are suggesting that that could be a link to her disappearance. 

ABRAMS:  Yes, I mean, there‘s a question about with that burglary occurred.  There‘s a debate as to whether it happened on the same day or two days later, as the prosecutors claim.

But it‘s a good question, because that is exactly what the defense is going to say.  They‘re going to say, look what was happening in that neighborhood.  There are all these sightings of a brown van.  Other people see a white van.

NORVILLE:  Right. 

ABRAMS:  People see Laci walking around after the time that Scott Peterson left the home.  There‘s a burglary across the street from their house at the very least within days of her going missing.  The defense is going to say, there is a lot of fishiness so to speak in the neighborhood.  And it‘s not a frivolous argument by the defense. 

NORVILLE:  And they‘re also going to argue if they decide to bring that satanic cult thing back in here, that she was killed by a satanic cult and they tossed her into the bay when they heard that Scott had been fishing there. 

ABRAMS:  Well, I think that they‘re probably going to try and stay away from the satanic cult.

But I do think that they‘re going to have to argue that Scott Peterson was framed.  I don‘t see any other way for the defense team to explain how Laci‘s body is found within two miles of where Scott says he went fishing 90 miles from their home on Christmas Eve.  The only plausible argument is that the real killer or killers knew that Scott Peterson had gone fishing there that day and as a result dumped the body there in an effort to make it look like Scott Peterson had did it. 

The problem with that is, A, that the body was way down and it didn‘t show up for months. 

NORVILLE:  Right. 

ABRAMS:  If they wanted to frame Scott Peterson, they would have just let the body wash up on shore.  And B is the fact that Scott Peterson went back to the site of that marina a number of times before her body was found. 

And the defense will say yes, look, he knew the searchers were there and so he wanted to go there and look.  But a couple times, he rented a car to go, as opposed to using his own car.  So, again, there‘s just a lot of evidence of Scott acting in a very odd fashion for someone who has purely lost his wife. 


NORVILLE:  Definitely an odd fashion, but we haven‘t talked about motive. 

We‘re going to take a break.  When we have come back, if Scott Peterson did kill his wife, why?  More of Dan Abrams after this. 


NORVILLE:  And we‘re back with Dan Abrams, NBC‘s chief legal correspondent, the host of “THE ABRAMS REPORT,” talking about opening statements in Scott Peterson‘s double-murder trial. 

Dan, how do you think the defense did today—or the prosecution did in their opening statements? 

ABRAMS:  I think they did OK. 

I don‘t think they knocked it out of the park.  I think that they—they focused too much on the chronology—this is what happened on this day, this happened the next day—as opposed to telling a story.  You know, they tried to tell a story.  You know, their list of the various lies Scott Peterson told was pretty persuasive.  But, again, they didn‘t sort of bring it together.

And I think that‘s the real danger.  That‘s the thing the prosecutors have to avoid here.  They have to avoid having these jurors focus on each piece of evidence individually, because, if they do that, I think that Scott Peterson is going to get acquitted.  They‘re going to say, well, this doesn‘t necessarily prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and this doesn‘t prove it.  The prosecutors need them to look at everything together. 

NORVILLE:  And what is Mark Geragos likely to do, since he‘s got all night tonight to polish up his opening statement? 

ABRAMS:  Well, I think he‘s going to focus on the weaknesses in the prosecution‘s case.  I think he‘s going to focus on the activity in the neighborhood, the sightings of a brown van, the sightings of a white van, the Laci sightings after the time that Scott Peterson says that he left the home, and for some of them, after the time that her dog is found on its leash in front of the home. 

I mean, if these jurors believe that Laci Peterson‘s walking around at 10:30 a.m. or 10:45 a.m. in the morning, as some witnesses have alleged, I think again there will almost certainly be an acquittal.  I think he‘s also going to focus on the autopsy of the little baby boy and of the way a piece of plastic tape was found apparently knotted around the neck and under the armpit of the baby.

And they‘re going to say, this baby was born alive.  This tape could not have gotten there accidentally.

NORVILLE:  Right. 

ABRAMS:  And that may be their strongest argument in this case. 

NORVILLE:  After Scott Peterson reported that Laci had gone missing, police put a tap on his phone and there were some 3,000 phone calls that were made and recorded.  There‘s one recording of a message, though, that Peterson left on the machine. 

I want to play that.  This, of course, was before the police started listening in on the phone calls. 


SCOTT PETERSON, DEFENDANT:  Hey, beautiful.  I just left you a message at home.  It‘s 2:15.  I‘m leaving Berkeley.  I won‘t be able to get to Vella Farms to get the basket for Papa.  I was hoping you would get this message and go on out there.  I‘ll see you in a bit, Sweetie.  Love you.  Bye. 


NORVILLE:  Now, that‘s Scott Peterson calling Laci‘s machine.  Is that exculpatory or is that going to make it look like he was leaving an alibi? 

ABRAMS:  Well, you know, look, first of all, that is the first time that tape has been heard publicly.  That was reported exclusively by me on my show and then on “The Today Show” as well. 

That will come out in court.  And the question is going to be, do you think that that is Scott Peterson leaving a message already knowing that Laci Peterson is dead?  And that‘s the prosecutor‘s position, is that message was left after Scott Peterson had already killed Laci.  On the other hand, the defense is going to say, he‘s leaving a message, a very ordinary message, just telling her, hey, I‘m not able to pick up a basket.  I‘ll see you when I get home. 

Was it an alibi, a cover-up or was it just an innocent message?  You know, tough to know, but the prosecutors are certainly going to introduce it.  They believe it also helps in terms of the timing.  They say that it makes it clear that that call, made sometime around 2:15 p.m., makes it clear Scott Peterson didn‘t do a lot of fishing, as he claimed, on that day. 

NORVILLE:  So, by 2:15 p.m., he‘s already on the road headed back to the house in Modesto? 

ABRAMS:  Exactly, that he arrived sometime around 12:54 p.m. or so.  He has to put his boat in the water.  He claims it was raining out so he stops fishing.  And the prosecutors are saying, A, it wasn‘t raining out, B, he didn‘t have the right equipment to be fishing.

And they‘re saying the more likely scenario is that Scott Peterson was just going to the water to dump Laci‘s body into the bay. 

NORVILLE:  So the big question, Dan, is why?  Why would Scott Peterson have killed his wife and their unborn child? 

ABRAMS:  Well, there have been a number of motives suggested.  And we keep hearing about Amber Frey, the girlfriend.  I don‘t think that, based on reading the arrest warrant, which we also obtained exclusively, and even based on the opening statements today, they are not going to just hang their hats on Amber Frey. 

In the arrest warrant, they talk about Scott‘s financial situation deteriorating, Laci wanting a new car, Laci wanting a new house, Scott Peterson not wanting children.  That became crucial today.  Amber Frey, in a conversation with Scott Peterson, Peterson says that he doesn‘t want to have children, that he is happy to just live with her child and that he‘s even thinking of getting a vasectomy, he says.  I think prosecutors are going to say, this is a guy who was scared of having a child, he didn‘t want to have a child, he wanted to live free and be able to do whatever he wanted and Laci Peterson was preventing him from doing that. 

NORVILLE:  When this arrest was made, the attorney general of California said, this case is a slam-dunk.  Having reported on this as many months as you have, do you believe this trial is going to be a slam-dunk? 

ABRAMS:  This case is not a slam-dunk.  No matter how you look at this case, this case is not a slam-dunk. 

This is going—this is, by any accounts, a winnable case for the defense and a winnable case for the prosecutors.  And you know, this is not a game when I say winning and losing, but the bottom line is that there is a lot of evidence in this case that the prosecutors can use if they put it together successfully that will end up with a conviction for Scott Peterson.

On the other hand, if they fail to do that, there is also enough reasonable doubt out there that jurors could certainly come to a unanimous verdict of not guilty.  And I don‘t often—I‘m not always one of these people saying, oh, on the one hand, on the other hand.  This is a close case, but it is certainly not a slam-dunk. 

NORVILLE:  All right, Dan Abrams, I know you‘ll be following it and I hope you‘ll come back and talk with us more as it goes along. 

ABRAMS:  Of course.  See you, Deborah.

NORVILLE:  Of course.

And, of course, you can watch “THE ABRAMS REPORT.”  It airs right here on MSNBC every night at 6:00 Eastern.  That‘s 3:00 Pacific. 

We‘ll take a break and be right back.


NORVILLE:  We got so many e-mails from you regarding last night‘s interview with Joan Rivers. 

Maria Vasquez writes in and says: “I just have to say how great your show was with Joan Rivers.  It was on open, honest and touching interview.  She was Joan, no doubt about it.  And watching her being so real increased my levels of respect for her.”

And Janet Berend writes in, saying: “I have always been a great fan of Joan Rivers.  Many years ago, I wrote to her, perhaps when she was doing the Carson show.  I could hardly believe it when I received a handwritten response from her on her tasteful notepaper.”

And Buck Winthrop also writes in about Joan Rivers.  He says: “You certainly had my attention for the full hour.  And that‘s rare in a time when it appears all TV cares about is sensationalism.”

Well, Buck, tune in more often.  I think you‘ll like what you find on this program.

We love to hear from you, so send U.S. your ideas and comments to us at NORVILLE.MSNBC.com.  Some of your e-mails are posted there on our Web page at NORVILLE.MSNBC.com.  And that‘s the same place where you can sign up for our handy-dandy newsletter, which I have not done, but I‘m going to, just to find out what‘s in it. 

That‘s our program for tonight.  Thanks a lot for watching.  I‘m Deborah Norville.

Coming up tomorrow night, a rare interview with music sensation Barry Manilow.  He‘s got some new music out.  He‘ll be performing some of his greatest hits and talking about his upcoming concert in Las Vegas.  We‘ll spend the entire hour with Barry Manilow tomorrow night. 

That‘s it for today.  “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY” is coming up next.  Pat Buchanan fills in this evening for Joe. 

Thanks for watching.  We‘ll see you tomorrow. 


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