Video: Peterson's opening arguments


There were no mention of satanic cults or rituals when defense attorney Mark Geragos made his opening remarks to the jury Wednesday in the Peterson murder case.

In his opening statement, Geragos conceded that Scott Peterson may have been a cad and a bit boorish—after all, he admits cheating on Laci with girlfriend Amber Frey—but argued that this does not mean he killed his pregnant wife.  Satanic cults and rituals were some theories floated in the media in the months leading up to the trial.

Dean Johnson, a former San Mateo county prosecutor, gave Geragos an “A” on his performance in his opening statement. “If you wanted to teach people how to do an opening statement, this has everything that you would get from the textbook,” he said on "The Abrams Report" Wednesday. 

According to Johnson, Geragos did what Rick Distaso did not.  “He got up and grabbed the jury in the first 30 seconds," he said. "Geragos said ‘This is not a case about being a cad.  This is a murder case, and a murder case requires evidence.’”

Peterson then turned to an easel board that had most of the prosecution‘s most powerful points on it and tried to discount each one of them:

  • The prosecution claims that Amber Frey is a factor in Peterson’s motives. Geragos argued that Amber Frey has been treated as if she‘s some sort of long-term girlfriend, but Frey and the defendant only had a total of four dates, and only two dates before Peterson allegedly planned the murder.  “Their theory would be that Scott didn’t want to have a child,” Geragos said. “He didn’t want to have a relationship, and he was therefore going to chuck his entire life with Laci ... for this woman he had two dates with.”
  • Prosecutors said that Peterson didn‘t want children, and this was one of his motivations for the murder.  Geragos characterized Peterson as a giddy expectant father who accompanied his wife to all her doctor’s appointments, and was even planning the nursery designed in a nautical theme.
  • Prosecutors said that Peterson lied to detectives when he said that Laci was watching Martha Stewart on television when he left the house on Dec. 24, 2002. “[The show] had something to do with meringue,” Peterson said, and prosecutors claimed that such a show did not exist.  Geragos showed the jury the very same episode in his opening statement, where Martha Stewart did mention meringue. 
  • The prosecutor said Peterson fled, grew a goatee, and had $15,000 in cash. To this, Geragos countered, “He would be the first guy to flee to Mexico by heading north,” pointing out that they captured him at a golf course. 
  • According to defense, Peterson speaks lovingly of Laci on recorded tapes with Amber Frey.  Peterson also says that Laci was very active, and had gone grocery shopping. She was not incapacitated as the prosecutors had argued. 

Peterson also says he left his house at 9:30 a.m., and  prosecutors are convinced that Laci was already dead at that point.  The problem for the prosecutors, according to Geragos, is there were a lot of sightings of Laci Peterson in that neighborhood after 10 a.m. “Geragos is trying to morph this case from a circumstantial evidence case into an eyewitness case,” says Johnson.

The defense also claims that science proves the baby was born alive. He said evidence would show that “somebody cut off” the umbilical cord.  “If this baby was born alive, clearly Scott Peterson had nothing to do with this murder,” Geragos said. “The evidence is going to show that (Laci) was alive on Dec. 24 when Scott went to the marina.”

The defense, however, did not address a number of the prosecution‘s strongest arguments.  They did not explain the location where the bodies were found, 90 miles from the Modesto home, and yet just around two miles from where Peterson said he went fishing.  They also did not address many of Scott‘s alleged lies, like why he told some people he went golfing and  others fishing on the day Laci went missing.  It was also not mentioned that Scott Peterson told Amber Frey his wife was dead, before she actually was.

Jayne Weintraub, a criminal defense attorney, argues that this is not the defense’s burden. “This is opening statement,” she said. “He wants to put the reasonable doubt in their minds and show the jurors what the government is not going to be able to prove.” 

On Wednesday, the prosecution also called in their first witness, Marguerite Nava, the cleaning woman who was at the Peterson home on the day before Laci went missing.  The prosecution tried to establish that Nava did a full cleaning, and that this made it unlikely that Laci would have been mopping the floor the next day, as Scott Peterson claimed.

The Associated Press and MSNBC’s Jennifer London contributed to this report. Watch "The Abrams Report" tonight, 6 p.m. ET for a full update on the trial.


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