Peterson Trial Continues
Pool  /  Getty Images file
Sharon Rocha, mother of murder victim Laci Peterson, and her son, Brent, speak outside the San Mateo Superior Courts last Wednesday. 
By Correspondent
msnbc.com
updated 7/12/2004 5:36:41 PM ET 2004-07-12T21:36:41

Juror No. 1 bowed her head. The woman, roughly the same age as Laci Peterson, found it too difficult to look at the photos the prosecution introduced as evidence in the Scott Peterson double murder trial. Other jury members rubbed their brows and lowered their eyes.

Peterson’s mother, Jackie Peterson, covered her eyes and looked away.

Peterson also had his head turned the other direction.

Laci’s mother and stepfather slipped out of court earlier in the day, perhaps anticipating the pain the photos and impending testimony would bring as the prosecution focused on the gruesome discovery of the bodies last week in the Scott Peterson trial.

The graphic evidence as well as the testimony during week six of the Peterson trial reflected a sharp shift in the prosecution's tactics. The previous week, evidence centered mostly around Scott Peterson’s mistress Amber Frey and Shawn Sibley's testimony about how she introduced Peterson to her friend Frey.

Many court watchers believed that earlier testimony was crafted to set the stage for the prosecution’s star witness, Frey, but she has yet to be called to the stand.


Sudden shift
Lisa Novak, a defense attorney and former prosecutor said the prosecution's strategy still remains unclear but it may boil down to the readiness of witnesses.

“It could be that the prosecution is saying ‘we’re not ready to put Amber Frey on the stand.’ They saw what Mark Geragos did to Detective Allen Brocchini when he testified,” said Novak. “They [the prosecution] might be unprepared to put her on the stand and have Geragos go after her in the way he went after Brocchini.”

Brocchini was grilled by Geragos who forced the Modesto detective to admit leaving important information out of his investigation report.

Novak said by shifting directions it “buys the prosecution more time” to prepare Frey, and to better prepare themselves.

But will the prosecution pay a price, in the long run, for the sudden shift in direction?

“I think it detracts from the impact of what Shawn Sibley had to say,” Novak said. “What she said was damaging to the defense. It builds on the picture of Scott Peterson being a lousy husband, a cheater and a liar. And that testimony was interrupted with the horrific, dramatic testimony of discovering the bodies.”

Graphic photos
Among the evidence was a photo showing the remains of Laci’s unborn son, who would have been named Conner. The photo left no doubt that the remains were that of a very small baby. Around its neck was what has been described in court as a “tape-like” substance.

Another photo showed the remains of Laci Peterson. Her torso was discovered half-submerged along the shoreline of the San Francisco Bay on April 14, 2003. The lapping water splashed over the remains, with each incoming tidal surge.

“We found something that looked peculiar,” Elena Gonzalez testified. “It was Laci’s body. I saw that she was already there in the water, with it splashing up on her.”

Michael Looby told the court he was walking his dog, with his wife on April 13, 2003. He said he was walking along the rocky shoreline, near the marshy tidal flats, looking for a place where his dog could go swimming.

Rick Distaso, the lead prosecutor, asked Looby, “Did something attract your attention?” Looby replied, “Yes, it was a body of a small baby.” Looby testified that it was very obvious the baby was dead.

The prosecution also called to the stand local fire and police officers who responded to the emergency calls that two bodies were discovered along the bay.

Distaso worked to establish the exact location where the bodies were located, attempting to further the prosecution’s argument that Scott Peterson dumped the body of his dead wife in the bay on Christmas Eve, 2002 and the strong tidal currents took care of the rest.

The defense has argued the bodies did not wash shore, rather they were dumped there by the real killers, in an attempt to frame Scott Peterson.

Crucial Question
While the photos and testimony were without a doubt, powerful and explicit, one of the last witnesses called to the stand during week six may have answered a crucial question.

If Scott Peterson killed his wife in their family home in Modesto, as the prosecution contends, how did he remove her body undetected? How did he get the body to his warehouse without anyone seeing anything?

A controversial demonstration by witness Kim Fulbright demonstrated how the prosecution argues the crime could have been executed.

“They used a model, who was pregnant, approximately the same size of Laci Peterson,” former San Mateo County Prosecutor Dean Johnson explained. “They showed that this woman could very easily fit into Scott Peterson’s truck’s toolbox and be hidden from prying eye, the whole time she was transported from the Peterson home to the warehouse.”

From the warehouse, the prosecution claims Peterson drove to the Berkeley Marina.

The demonstration in court on Wednesday continued with photos of Fulbright curled up in the fetal position on the floor of the small, aluminum fishing skiff.

“They showed how very easily that woman could fit in the bottom of Scott Peterson’s fishing boat, could therefore be launched from the Berkeley Marina and presumably dumped in the Bay,” Johnson said.

Jennifer London is an MSNBC correspondent currently covering the Peterson case in Redwood City, Calif. Jim Kyle, NBC News producer, contributed to this report.

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