updated 8/24/2004 10:11:02 AM ET 2004-08-24T14:11:02

Guests: Paul Pfingst, Patricia Cornwell


DEBORAH NORVILLE, HOST:  On the hot seat.  Amber Frey returns to the witness stand, this time to face the defense.  Can Scott Peterson‘s attorneys cast doubt on the prosecution‘s star witness or those secret phone tapes?


SCOTT PETERSON, CHARGED WITH DOUBLE MURDER:  There are so many things I want to tell you.  God.  Unbelievable.


NORVILLE:  Tonight, Amber Frey under cross-examination.  She secretly recorded Scott Peterson‘s lies and deceit, but with no murder weapon or witnesses, can simple words convict him of double murder?


PETERSON:  You know I‘m not a monster, Amber.


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

NORVILLE:  And good evening.  Amber Frey back on the stand today, this time for cross-examination by the defense.  And Mark Geragos went right for the nature of her relationship with Scott Peterson, implying it had more to do with drinking and having casual sex than planning a future together.

Joining me now from Redwood City, California, where he‘s been covering the Peterson trial is NBC‘s chief legal correspondent, Dan Abrams, who is also the anchor of the MSNBC‘s “THE ABRAMS REPORT.”

Dan, before we get into some of the specifics today we heard, did they give any explanations as to why the trial was delayed, the cross-examination, for a couple of days last week?

DAN ABRAMS, HOST, “THE ABRAMS REPORT”:  No explanation at all.  They actually started with a different witness at the top of the day today.  For most of the morning, they had some phone records experts from AT&T there.  Amber Frey didn‘t take the stand until the very late morning.  All the jurors were told was that there was something meaningful, that the judge and the court were not wasting their time.

NORVILLE:  And before we get into Amber, the AT&T lady actually did have some important information to share because it was all about the window during which—if someone else kidnapped and killed Laci Peterson, that that could have happened because of when Scott Peterson was making phone calls on his cell phone.

ABRAMS:  That‘s right.  The key to her testimony is timing.  Is it certain that Scott Peterson made a phone call from a particular location at 10:08 in the morning that the day that Laci was reported missing?  Why is that significant?  Well, if he made a phone call at 10:08, and the dog, Laci‘s dog, was recovered at 10:18, or around that time in their neighborhood, well, that sure doesn‘t look great for Scott Peterson because that would leave an abductor really only a limited amount of time because Scott Peterson is calling from the Modesto area when he makes that call.

NORVILLE:  But in the questioning from Mark Geragos, the phone person also had to admit that the cell call doesn‘t always go automatically to the nearest cell tower, so you can‘t really get a geographical fix on the person on the cell phone, based on which phone tower it went through.

ABRAMS:  That‘s right.  She talked about the weaknesses in the system, the fact that you can‘t always predict exactly what is going to happen and you can‘t always assess exactly what did happen simply based on the records, that the records can be faulty, that mistakes can be made.  But she seemed pretty certain that in this particular case, she had a real good sense of the fact that Scott Peterson had called his voice-mail messages on December 24 at 10:08.

NORVILLE:  All right.  Now let‘s look at Amber Frey‘s testimony.  When she sat down on the witness stand, the first thing Mark Geragos said was, “No questions,” pause, pause, pause, “Just kidding.”  What was that all about?

ABRAMS:  You know, a lot of media experts, a lot of lawyers have said, You know what Mark Geragos should do?  He should stand up and say, No questions, and sit down.  I think Mark Geragos was mocking all of them.  I think it was clearly for the benefit of the gallery.  Literally, there was a hush that went over the courtroom because the first thing he says with Amber Frey sitting up there, he says, “No questions.”  And it was silent (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

NORVILLE:  Is he serious?

ABRAMS:  Five seconds later, he says, “Just kidding,” and you hear everyone sort of laugh.  You know, some people would say not entirely appropriate.


ABRAMS:  Others say, Look, it just broke the tension.

NORVILLE:  So when he did get going with Amber Frey, it looks like one of the things he was trying to establish was it may not have been this beautiful, romantic relationship between the two.  Tell us about that line of questioning.

ABRAMS:  Oh, yes.  Remember on those tapes, Scott Peterson‘s talking all the time about how much he cares for Amber, how they have a future together, she‘s so wonderful, she‘s so amazing.  And what Mark Geragos is trying to establish is that Scott Peterson had gone out with her a few times, he says, four times they went out, and these were effectively alcohol-fueled sex romps.

Here‘s one of these things that Mark Geragos asked her.  “Is it not true that virtually every time you went out with Scott Peterson, you had something to drink?”  Now, Frey said no.  And then he would also ask her, “Isn‘t it true you had sex that night?”  Every time he asked her about one of their, quote, “dates,” he asked her about having sex with him that night.

NORVILLE:  But they did have sex on almost every one of their dates.

ABRAMS:  Yes, they did.  I mean, that‘s true.

NORVILLE:  So it was a legitimate question to ask.  And...


NORVILLE:  Go ahead, Dan.

ABRAMS:  No, I was just going to say that there‘s no question that they did.  The question, though, is, Does that frame their, quote, “relationship” fairly?  Is it fair to suggest that this was all about drinking and sex, when you do have a lot of phone calls between them?  Mark Geragos clearly trying to demonstrate that many of the phone calls were from Amber to Scott, not Scott to Amber, and in fact, at in many points, trying to show that she was somehow obsessed with Scott Peterson.

NORVILLE:  And it goes right to the very beginning, when Geragos asks Amber about the nickname that she had heard some people refer to Scott Peterson, that perhaps even referred to himself by?

ABRAMS:  That‘s right.  I mean, this goes to one of Amber‘s friends, who‘s the one who set Amber up with him.  And that night—remember, her friend had only met him once at a convention, and they were making a lot of jokes about sex and how to pick up women, et cetera, and that she even gave Scott a nickname.  And this is what—and Amber knew about it.

Here‘s what Mark Geragos said.  He said, “Did she tell you what his nickname was?  Did you ever hear the initials H.B.?  Did she tell you it stood for horny bastard?”  Frey says, “Yes.”  “Did she tell you that he asked her what he should write on his nametag in order to attract women and she suggested, ‘I am rich‘?”  Frey, “I vaguely recall her talking about that.”  Geragos, “He said  he was looking for a soulmate.  That didn‘t cause you any pause, when here‘s a guy looking for a soulmate that goes by the handle H.B.?”  Amber Frey says, “No.”

NORVILLE:  So for a good time, call me, was sort of the inference there.

ABRAMS:  Absolutely.  Look, Mark Geragos is trying to change the way these jurors look at Amber Frey.  But you have to ask yourself, even if they do—even if they don‘t look at her as this pristine woman, even if some of the sheen does come off, the question is, how does that change what Scott Peterson said on those audiotapes?

NORVILLE:  I also want to ask you about an exchange that took place, where Amber was asked about a conversation she had with her friend, Shawn Sibley (ph), who was the woman who introduced her to Scott at that party.  And this was later on when—after December 6, when Shawn had found out that, indeed, Scott Peterson was married and was wondering whether she should tell Amber Frey or not.  She felt sort of guilty that she‘d set her friend up with a married man.

And what Amber said to the question—“She‘s talking to you about it.  She told you she was going to get to the bottom of it.  The gist of what she told you”—and then Amber said, “She said because she was the one that set me up, if anything happened to me, she would feel responsible, going to go as far as using some type of service to find out about Scott Peterson.”

If anything happened to her, that seems like a very odd thing for a girlfriend to say to another girlfriend just because you found out the guy was a married man.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  I got to tell you, I don‘t think she meant “happened to me” in terms of being found in the San Francisco Bay.  I think what she meant by that, ‘what‘s happened to me,” meaning, I‘d be destroyed.  I had been lied to.  I‘d be deceived.  I‘d be so upset.  I think that‘s what Amber Frey was referring to in that interchange.

NORVILLE:  And when Geragos was questioning Amber Frey, he also quickly got to that whole tale that he had spun—you‘d think his parents were the president or something because there was a trip to Kennebunkport that was planned and all this.  What was the point of that?

ABRAMS:  Very significant point.  What Mark Geragos is trying to show is that—remember when Scott said to Amber, I‘ll be able to spend more time with you in January, after I get back from my European trip?  The prosecutors have suggested up to this point that Scott Peterson was premeditating her murder, that he just made up this European trip because he knew that he was going to be killing Laci, and they‘d be able to spend more time together after everything passed.

Mark Geragos pointing out that Scott made up these lies about where he was going to be the first time they went out, Geragos trying to suggest this wasn‘t so he could kill Laci, this was just one of his many lies to Amber.

Geragos said, “Within hours of meeting you, he told you he‘d be in Alaska for Thanksgiving, in Maine for Christmas, in Europe in January.”  Amber, “Yes.”  “And it‘s not the something he told you later on, after your first date or second date.  Are you absolutely sure the first time he told you was on November the 20th?”  Amber said, “Yes.”

So again, it‘s another defense effort to sort of chip away at some of arguments made by the prosecutors.

NORVILLE:  But you know what, Dan?  I‘m not a defense expert and I‘m not a prosecution expert, but if I‘m sitting there in the jury, that‘s not telling me anything.  It‘s not telling me that he wasn‘t premeditatingly planning to get rid of his wife, just because Amber Frey was there.  He may have been thinking about it, regardless of whether there was a woman in his life or not.

NORVILLE:  That‘s right.  And it also doesn‘t address the issue of, I lost my wife.  it doesn‘t explain why two weeks before Laci‘s reported missing, Scott is saying, I lost my wife.  Now, his position has always been, You know, look, I was lying.  I hardly knew her, is effectively what Geragos is going so today, that Scott Peterson hardly new her, didn‘t care about her.  He was just making up a story so she would stay with him.  Big coincidence, though.  That‘s the problem, is that he, quote, lose his wife two weeks later.

NORVILLE:  A coincidence which no doubt is being noticed by the jury. 

Dan Abrams, as always, thanks for being with us tonight.

ABRAMS:  All right, Deborah.

NORVILLE:  See you later.

ANNOUNCER:  Coming up: examining the body of evidence.


PETERSON:  You know I could never hurt you or her or anyone.


ANNOUNCER:  Riveting phone tapes exposed Scott Peterson‘s double life, but do they prove a case of murder?  Best-selling crime writer Patricia Cornwell weighs the facts about Scott Peterson‘s trial when DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT returns.



GLORIA ALLRED, AMBER FREY‘S ATTORNEY:  We anticipate that Mr. Geragos will try and emphasize the Self-serving portions of the tapes, where Mr.  Peterson declares his innocence.  But that will not take away from the numerous evasions and refusals on the part of Mr. Peterson to answer Ms.  Frey‘s questions.


NORVILLE:  That, of course, was Amber Frey‘s attorney, Gloria Allred, today, talking about how she thinks Scott Peterson‘s attorney, Mark Geragos, will be handling those taped phone conversations between Mr.  Peterson and his former mistress.

I‘m joined this evening by criminal defense attorney Joe Tacopina and former prosecutor Paul Pfingst to talk about how the trial is proceeding.

Gentlemen, as you know, it started out with a joke from Mark Geragos in the beginning.  Paul, was that a good joke to play on the court?  Because the jury hasn‘t been hearing what all you legal experts have been saying.

PAUL PFINGST, FORMER PROSECUTOR:  Well, I think it comes with a fair amount of risk because if it falls flat, all of a sudden, you can be very alone in that courtroom, recognizing the jury thinks this is very serious.  And if you‘re not taking it seriously, you‘re doing so at your own risk.  So I wasn‘t in the courtroom to watch the jurors‘ reaction, but at that stage of the proceedings, I think that‘s a risk I wasn‘t take because it may show—there are times when breaking the ice is OK, but there are times when serious stuff is happening, and you ought to address it pretty seriously.

NORVILLE:  Joe, Paul says that he wouldn‘t take the risk, cracking a joke like that, because remember, the jury‘s been told not to watch this program or any other program talking about the case.

JOE TACOPINA, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Yes, I don‘t think Geragos was lashing out or answering his critics.  I mean, it‘s—you know, mark was one of us, you know, when...


TACOPINA:  And a lot of us who try high-profile cases also do this stuff, so I don‘t think Mark is condoning the lawyers who are out there trying to analyze the case.  But you know, there‘s nothing wrong, if you can get away with it—and obviously, Mark can in this courtroom—with bringing a little levity into the courtroom, breaking that tension, because the tension of these—especially in a capital homicide case, where people could die, is overwhelming.  And to be able to get people, especially jurors, to laugh is not a bad thing.  It‘s a terrific tool, if you could, you know, employ it.  And so I don‘t think, obviously, anyone was offended.  Obviously, that remains to be seen, but the judge certainly didn‘t seem to take issue with it and...


TACOPINA:  ... you know, actually, he laughed.

NORVILLE:  And they moved on and went forward with the case.  I want you to wear your defense attorney hat, Joe Tacopina.  And clearly, the prosecution has portrayed Amber Frey as a woman who‘s unlucky in love, picks bad guys and really picked a doozy of a bad guy in the person of Scott Peterson.  How does the defense want to portray her now on cross-examination?

TACOPINA:  You know, I still don‘t believe—and I think, based on Geragos‘s initial cross, he may be of the same mindset.  I don‘t believe her credibility is all that relevant.  Look, the prosecution tried to get two things from Amber Frey.  One, to show this evidence to show the jury that Peterson was so obsessed with her that he had to have her.


TACOPINA:  You know, he needed a future with her.  And two, she‘s basically there to play the tape recorder button, to hear Scott‘s words.  It‘s not so much what Amber‘s saying, it‘s what Scott‘s saying on those tapes.  So the fact that, you know, her credibility or her past may be—you know, have some issues regarding her relationship, and so on and so forth, is really irrelevant to this.  And I think it could backfire on Mark, on the defense, if they went after her like that.  He‘s basically trying to show that, Look, you were just as enthralled with him as, you know, you think he was with you, perhaps, and maybe even more so.

NORVILLE:  And in fact, it appeared that during the questioning that was going on today, Mark Geragos was trying to paint a picture of a woman who was more than just smitten with this new man in her life, but somewhat obsessed.  He talked about on December 26, looking at the phone records, that she had made a total of 14 telephone calls to Scott Peterson on that day.  And what was the purpose?  To thank him for a Christmas gift.  And he holds up a plastic terrarium, which was the Christmas gift that Scott Peterson had given Amber Frey, and said, And this is what you were thanking him for?  Makes a pretty powerful statement.

TACOPINA:  Well, it does, but I mean, if it‘s just to show that she was really taken with him, OK, that‘s powerful.  But don‘t forget, this case is not about, in my opinion, you know, whether she was really taken with him, if he really liked her.  They still have to—look, I could see a juror saying at this point, OK, Mr. Prosecutor, we get the point.  He‘s a cad.  He‘s a this.  He‘s a that.  He liked her.  He had X amount of relationship.


TACOPINA:  Maybe he wanted to break up and marry—but you still have to have evidence of a murder.  Here you still have no bloody weapon.  You have no, you know, cause of death.  You have no crime scene and you have no witnesses to...

NORVILLE:  But what you do have...

TACOPINA:  ... this offense.

NORVILLE:  ... in the person of Amber Frey...

TACOPINA:  Is a motive.

NORVILLE:  ... is someone who was able to get a lot of information through these telephone calls.

Paul, when you listen to these telephone calls, you wonder, just as a bystander, how much coaching is she getting from the police?  Wouldn‘t it be a good idea if the defense could portray Amber as just a tool of the cops and doing their bidding?

PFINGST:  Well, you‘re exactly on what‘s going to happen tomorrow.  Mark Geragos is going to say, Listen, you were coached by the police.  You had a number of sessions with them.  They told you want they wanted.  They asked you to do things a certain way.  You tried a number of different, separate ways to try to get Scott Peterson to admit he killed his wife, and day after—and time after time and day after day and phone call after phone call, he refused to do that, isn‘t that right?

And that‘s what we‘re going to hear tomorrow.  But I think part of this is sort of—sometimes we make arguments only lawyers can understand.  The fact of the matter is, listening to these phone tapes defies something that Mark Geragos said early on, that Scott Peterson thought...

NORVILLE:  Which is what?

PFINGST:  Scott Peterson thought this was a superficial relationship. 

He‘d only been out with her four times.  It was no big deal.  Listening to Scott Peterson‘s voice on those tapes proves otherwise.


PFINGST:  Scott Peterson had, in his own words, in his own voice—and you can hear it in the tenor of his voice—plans to have a long-term relationship...

NORVILLE:  Oh, hold on a second!

PFINGST:  ... with this woman.

TACOPINA:  Oh, oh, oh!

NORVILLE:  Wait, Paul.  I got the perfect piece of tape for you on that one.  I just—you teed it up for me beautifully.  Listen to this, and then tell me if you think that Scott Peterson really is ready for a long-term relationship with Amber Frey.  Roll the tape.


AMBER FREY, SCOTT PETERSON‘S FORMER LOVER:  And it‘s just—you know, I‘m just waiting or anticipating the day that I get to, you know, see you again.

PETERSON:  Oh, how sweet.  Thank you.  I feel the same way. 

Obviously, you know that.

FREY:  What was that?

PETERSON:  Obviously, I feel the same—I felt passion (ph) there (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the day I had to drive away and go on this trip.


NORVILLE:  Obviously, I feel the same way.  You know that.  That‘s like every girl who says, I love you, first and the guy goes, Me, too.


NORVILLE:  You know, he just couldn‘t bring himself to say it.  You know, any woman listening knows exactly that‘s a frosty guy, and he doesn‘t want to go any further with the relationship.  Paul?

PFINGST:  No, because there are other tapes there, as well, talking about how, I love your daughter...


PFINGST:  ... how, I want to spend time with you, how, I want to do those things going into the future.  Now, listen.  Fact of the matter is, you listen to the tapes, the jury‘s going to decide, why would this guy keep talking with this woman time after time, day after day, week after week, when he has all this other stuff on his plate...

TACOPINA:  Because...

PFINGST:  ... unless he had a significant future with her?


PFINGST:  At least, in his mind.

TACOPINA:  No.  There‘s another innocent...

NORVILLE:  Why do you say?  Give us another view.

TACOPINA:  ... explanation, because he knows the stuff‘s about to hit the fan.  I mean, he knows he‘s going to be outed as a married guy whose wife happens to be missing, you know, and he‘s trying to keep her happy, trying to keep her close.  I mean, there‘s—I—whether he is or isn‘t, I mean, I can see someone in his position not wanting to isolate her and alienate her, to get her angry.  Maybe she‘ll start tape-recording conversations, perhaps, or something like that.

NORVILLE:  I‘m hearing—so what both of you would say—is she his cover, in a certain sense?  Can she be his cover, Joe?

TACOPINA:  You know, who knows what he was thinking, but maybe he was thinking, Yes, you know, that, I‘ll keep you as an ally and whatever.  I know he didn‘t want her as an enemy, so talking nice to her is not necessarily, you know, a notion that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her.

PFINGST:  Well, maybe in that tape.

TACOPINA:  But also, Paul, the last tape backfired big-time on the prosecution.  The last phone call, Amber Frey called him up and said, basically, I don‘t want to speak to you anymore.  You know, This is the end of our relationship.

NORVILLE:  This is the last time we‘re talking.

TACOPINA:  And she expected some, Oh, no!  You can‘t do that to me!  And he‘s, like, yes, you‘re right.  And she‘s, like, What?  And he said, Well, you‘re—I agree with you.  We shouldn‘t speak anymore.  You know, Hopefully, we‘ll talk in the future.  And that was how this—the taped relationship ended, the conversations on tape ended.  That was not really how the prosecution wanted his answer to go.

PFINGST:  No, finally, Geragos...

NORVILLE:  Yes, Paul, your take.

PFINGST:  Finally, Geragos‘s client listened to his advice and says, Stop talking to people about what happened, OK?  The fact of the matter is, if—he could have ended this relationship at any time.  Now, ultimately, the jurors are going to listen to that and say, Was there more here than just a casual, superficial a few dates for sex type relationship?  If they conclude...

NORVILLE:  Well, what do you think?

PFINGST:  If they conclude that there is, they‘re going to think there‘s motive for murder.

TACOPINA:  Well...

PFINGST:  If they conclude that there‘s not, then they won‘t.

TACOPINA:  Paul, there could be all motive in the world for murder.  I don‘t even know if that‘s in dispute.  There could be motive, you know, Deborah, that he wanted to be with her.  You still need evidence that he committed the murder.

PFINGST:  There‘s plenty of evidence!


PFINGST:  There‘s Plenty of evidence!

NORVILLE:  You know what, Paul?  I want to get into the evidence, and that‘s a perfect place to just break it right now.  We‘ve talked about motive.  We‘re going to come back and talk about evidence.  More with Joe Tacopina and Paul Pfingst right after this.



NORVILLE:  More on the cross-examination of Amber Frey in the trial of Scott Peterson.  Today she was cross-examined by Peterson‘s attorney, Mark Geragos.  Back now with criminal defense attorney Joe Tacopina and former prosecutor Paul Pfingst.

Gentlemen, I want to play a little snippet of sound from the other day, when Amber Frey‘s father, Ron Frey, was on.  And I asked him what he expected would happen after Amber finished her presentation.


RON FREY, AMBER FREY‘S FATHER:  Mr. Geragos is pleading with James Brazleton to make a plea bargain.

NORVILLE:  You think so?

FREY:  Oh, after Amber and those tapes come on, he‘d be foolish not to.


NORVILLE:  In a million years, Paul, could you see the plea bargain being part of this trial?

PFINGST:  Well, that would really shock me, at this point.  But I don‘t see where there‘s any middle ground here.  It‘s a death penalty case.  Let‘s say the prosecution were to offer life without parole and strike death.  I don‘t think Scott Peterson would take that.  Then if the prosecutors would offer murder in the first degree, I don‘t think Scott Peterson would take that.  So I don‘t think there‘s a middle ground to go here, so I don‘t really think that‘s in the cards.

NORVILLE:  But Paul, I think if they work out some sort of an adultery plea, they could probably...


NORVILLE:  Yes, he‘ll plead guilty to adultery...


PFINGST:  A misdemeanor, Joe?

TACOPINA:  Exactly.

PFINGST:  Time served?

TACOPINA:  Felony adultery.

PFINGST:  Yes.  Well, that‘s—I—I know Jim Brazleton, and he‘s not going to do that.

NORVILLE:  In a million years.

PFINGST:  Not in a million years.  Not in a million years, no.


TACOPINA:  I mean, you can‘t listen to Ron Frey for any—you know—whatever.  He‘s doing what he has to do.

NORVILLE:  He‘s a concerned father who cares about his daughter.

TACOPINA:  Sure.  Except his daughter doesn‘t want him speaking on her behalf.  But putting all that aside, I mean, you know, I don‘t think, obviously, his input is really that valuable, as far as this case.

NORVILLE:  And the reason no plea bargain is no significant evidence, Mr. criminal defense attorney.

TACOPINA:  Look, there is plenty of evidence that this guy‘s a bad guy, and that‘s what the prosecution‘s strength is in this case.  That‘s their hammer, based—from the opening statement, Geragos said, They‘re going to try and get you to hate Scott.  Not a very hard, not a very big task for the prosecution.  They‘re trying to get a visceral reaction from this jury.  And look, they need for this—that emotion to fill the void where the evidence should be.  There is—look, they said five crime scenes, the prosecution.  They have the house, the truck, the warehouse, the boat and the marina.  Those are five crime scenes.  How unbelievably...

NORVILLE:  And the beach.

TACOPINA:  And the beach—six.  How unbelievably unlikely is it for

there not to be one shred of physical evidence at any of those crime

scenes, and not one witness that saw him do anything consistent with the

prosecution‘s theory?  There are major problems.  The prosecution married

theories in this case in their opening statement that—they have fallen

flat on their face, from the meringue pie episode with Martha Stewart,

where they said, aha, we


NORVILLE:  The TV didn‘t match up.

TACOPINA:  Right.  They said, we caught Peterson lying about the days he was watching TV.  They turned out to be wrong on that.

They didn‘t prep the boat witness who talked about how it would be—his boat wouldn‘t capsize if you had to dump something off the size of a body.  Then Geragos comes up and cross and said, well, you never looked at his boat.  And, as a matter of fact, his boat could do that.  The witness backed off.  This phone witness today—we‘re taking these in snippets, but the phone witness today from AT&T...

NORVILLE:  Basically prove that you can‘t tell where a cell phone caller is when they‘re using their cell phone. 

TACOPINA:  And the prosecution opened up by saying cell phone records will show where he was when he made this call.  This jury has got to be saying, hey, stop promising us things and then backing off.

NORVILLE:  But, Paul Pfingst, the fact remains, a woman is dead.  Her unborn child was never born, did not live to see his mother and grow up and have a life.  And someone killed these two people.  And if not Scott Peterson, who? 

PAUL PFINGST, FORMER PROSECUTOR:  Well, it‘s more than that. 

NORVILLE:  How much can a juror take that thought process and say guilty?

PFINGST:  Well, it‘s a heck of a lot more than that, of course.

The fact is that when Laci Peterson went missing, it was the same day Scott Peterson changed his plans from going golfing to going fishing.  He goes fishing and at the same time Laci disappears.  He comes back from fishing.  And then after he comes back, Laci‘s body washes up on the shore where he was fishing.  OK, this is not rocket science here. 

A lot of people can see that shows a lot. 


NORVILLE:  Yes, but, Paul, you know you have heard people Geragos say that that is very easy for someone, this highly profiled case, could have easily, whoever else killed Laci Peterson, thrown her in the water so she would wash up somewhere where he said he was fishing. 

PFINGST:  Well, take a look at her clothes she was wearing when her body was found.  OK, Scott Peterson says she was wearing dark pants and different clothes when he left her in the morning.  In fact, she was wearing the same pants from the night before, indicating that she was killed, never changed, and Scott Peterson was not telling the truth. 

The fact of the matter is, I know what Mark Geragos says.  It‘s a group of devil worshipers roaming the streets of Modesto who took her...


NORVILLE:  ... that one, too.

PFINGST:  And then dumped her body, coincidentally, exactly where Scott was fishing.  Well, that‘s sort of silly and nobody is going to buy that. 

OK, what happened here is this coincidence of her disappearance and his fishing trip speaks more loudly than the tapes.  It speaks more loudly than the telephone calls with Amber Frey.  It is the guts of this case. 

NORVILLE:  Well, at the end of the day, it really doesn‘t matter what any of us think.  It‘s the 12 men and women sitting on that jury.  And, at a certain point, we will know what they think.

But I‘m curious about what you two think about the attorney for the witness.  It‘s not often that you see a witness in a trial with an attorney, certainly one that is as highly profiled as Gloria Allred is. 

Joe, what‘s the reason to have a high-profile, boldface-name attorney like Gloria Allred representing you when you are a player, perhaps a minor one even, in this saga?

TACOPINA:  When you‘re just a witness.  Most witnesses don‘t come with attorneys. 

However, listen, I don‘t necessarily agree with everything Gloria says, but she has a right and she is actually in the right for representing Amber Frey, because she has been inundated with requests for interviews.  People are trying to buy her story from her.

NORVILLE:  Right. 

TACOPINA:  What Gloria is doing is protecting the integrity of that witness. 

She did the job.  No one heard Amber‘s story before she got on that witness stand, which is really quite amazing in this day and age of electronic media and people trying to do things.  People were trying to sell nude photographs of her, which Gloria was able to stop.

NORVILLE:  Right. 

TACOPINA:  So she served her purpose.  And she is protecting her witness and sort of shielding her witness from everyone else.  Without an attorney, people have free rein to try and reach Amber. 

NORVILLE:  Paul, as a prosecutor, would it be something that you would welcome, to see a witness like this with someone like Gloria Allred shepherding her through the process?

PFINGST:  Well, Gloria is sort of her own mini force of nature.

But I do agree with Joe that in this day and age, when you get into a high-publicity case, an enormous publicity case like this, and I have handled a few of them now, the fact of the matter is, the pressure on the witnesses is just so severe, it interferes with their entire life.  And having somebody as a buffer between them and the rest of the world is helpful to the witness. 

NORVILLE:  I hope to God I never have to higher an attorney like that, but I can‘t imagine that they come cheap.  How does somebody like Amber Frey pay the fee of somebody like Gloria Allred, Paul? 

PFINGST:  I don‘t think Gloria is charging that much.  As far as I can tell, Gloria seems to be having a pretty good time. 

NORVILLE:  And is part of it, then, Joe, the opportunity to go out every day and do the press conference and give your take and give your spin on the day‘s proceedings? 

TACOPINA:  I mean, some would suggest—cynics would suggest that‘s why Gloria took it, for the publicity value of it.  If she did, that‘s her own decision to make. 

I‘m not in a position to take cases for free just to get some press out of them.  I have paying clients I get press from.  But, look, again, the bottom line is, she is doing something that she has actually served her purpose here.  Whether Amber is paying her or her family is paying her or Gloria is taking a reduced fee, who knows what her motives are, but you know, she is serving her client well and that‘s the bottom line. 

NORVILLE:  Well, I want to listen to what she said today when the court proceedings adjourned for a bit.  Gloria came out and made this comment about how questioning was going with Amber Frey.


GLORIA ALLRED, ATTORNEY FOR AMBER FREY:  I can‘t tell you where he is going.  I can tell you, I just think he is nowhere.  He has gone nowhere.  As I said, a PowerPoint presentation without any power and without any point. 


NORVILLE:  Paul Pfingst, does that help in any way? 

PFINGST:  Mark Geragos and Gloria have been at this since the beginning of the case.  These two can‘t be on the same street together without seeing fangs come out. 

So that‘s just a personality conflict.  And it is not going to have

any difference on the outcome of the case.  But when you are there watching

·         and I‘ve seen these two together—it is quite a sight to see.  They don‘t like each other. 

NORVILLE:  Yes, indeed.

And, finally, Joe, last question to the defense attorney.  What mistake if any have you seen the defense team make in handling this case? 

TACOPINA:  Well, you know, I think the real risk, the mistake that the defense will engage in is when they start putting on the defense case.  To date, I think they have done a pretty good job challenging all the prosecution witnesses. 

Don‘t forget, their job at this point is to poke reasonable doubt, poke holes.  But from what we understand, the defense is going to be putting on a massive case here, a substantial case.  That‘s when, you know, the eyes start turning towards the defense and whether they are flailing like the prosecution is now. 


TACOPINA:  It‘s easy to cross-examine or at least it‘s easy to say the prosecution is making mistakes when they are putting on the evidence.  When it‘s the defense‘s evidence, that‘s when we will be able to say if they have made mistakes or not. 

NORVILLE:  It looks like we‘re a ways yet until that happens, though. 

Joe Tacopina, Paul Pfingst, thanks so much for being with us.

PFINGST:  You‘re welcome. 

NORVILLE:  Still ahead, those phone conversations between Amber and Scott show that he wasn‘t a good husband.  But, as we‘ve been discussing, does any of it point to him being a killer? 

Crime novelist and former coroner Patricia Cornwell joins me on that next. 


NORVILLE:  We‘ve heard Scott Peterson lie on tape, but is there enough hard evidence to convict him of murder?  Crime author and forensic consultant Patricia Cornwell joins me next.


NORVILLE:  Continuing our look at the cross-examination of Amber Frey, with me now best-selling crime author Patricia Cornwell, a forensic consultant who specializes in evidence.  And also she is a former crime reporter. 

Ms. Cornwell, when you look at this case, and we have talked about this before, he is a lousy husband.  He was a creepy boyfriend.  Where is the proof that he was a murderer? 

PATRICIA CORNWELL, CRIME AUTHOR:  Well, what I see here is you have a very strong circumstantial case, but what you need over in this corner is physical evidence.  And if you had the physical evidence to go with the circumstantial evidence, you would have a very powerful case against this man.

But what is woefully lacking is the physical evidence.  And that comprises three things.  What is physical evidence?  Well, it‘s something first of all objects that show you there was a crime. 

NORVILLE:  Right. 

CORNWELL:  Secondly, it is evidence that links a perpetrator or suspect with a crime scene or links the person thirdly with the victim herself or himself. 

NORVILLE:  Which is easy to do when it‘s your wife.  So there would be...

CORNWELL:  Well, that‘s the problem.  You have an obvious connection.  You‘ve got the problem of cross-transfer of evidence like the hair on the pliers in the boat.  Well, there‘s a lot of reasons that could be there because this man lived with her, may have had all kind of trace evidence on his clothing or on his person. 

So we don‘t know why that was there.  But if you have got something that shows—if you have evidence, physical evidence that shows that there was contact between a perpetrator and a victim, then...

NORVILLE:  You have got a link.

CORNWELL:  But not so much when they live together.  So what you need is something that shows evidence of violence between these two people. 

And that is what we really don‘t have here and that makes me very nervous about this case. 

NORVILLE:  I have to tell you, we went through all the documents.  And, gosh, there is a lot of stuff on the Peterson case.  And we put together the list of what we believe is the physical evidence.  And we said, we must be missing something.  This is it.

And, folks, it fits on one little screen on television, the hair from Laci Peterson on the pliers that were found, little drops of Scott Peterson‘s blood in the house and in his pickup truck, cement traces in his truck, in his boat and in the storage unit that he had.  He said he was making anchors for his boat.  The bodies of Laci and the baby, the tarp that was found near the body, and duct tape that was found near the body.

That‘s six things.  That‘s not a lot to send someone to the death chamber.


CORNWELL:  You can discount a lot of that.  His blood really means nothing.

You would expect—think of how your blood an be all over the place, if you ever had a nose bleed or cut yourself in the house or anything, or in your vehicle.  So his blood doesn‘t mean as much as her blood actually would, to start with.  Second, let‘s take cement.  It is the most pervasive and common building material in the whole world, limestone and clay.  Unless it has some very special elements added to it for some reason, it doesn‘t necessarily mean very much. 


CORNWELL:  And what are you comparing it to?  Was there something found with her body that might have been incriminating?

NORVILLE:  And as far as we know, there was no trace of cement on her body.  We don‘t know everything, because that part of the evidence hasn‘t been presented yet. 

CORNWELL:  Well, microscopically, cement, and silicon, which is in soil, is just all over the place.  So that‘s a little bit weak, also.

There isn‘t anything.  The duct tape, the tarp, those could have been very helpful bits of evidence if there was someone found on them that pointed the finger at Scott Peterson or his residence.  And so far there hasn‘t been anything that has come up about that.  Now, that would be interesting.  But so far, all of this evidence can be explained. 

Does it mean that he should, you know, be found not guilty?  Does it mean that he is innocent?  Well, it maybe doesn‘t mean that, but it makes it a very problematic case.  If you are going to be pristine and a purist in terms of whether you convict this person, the physical evidence is saying, you know what, I can‘t be helpful here. 

NORVILLE:  But if the list is only six items long of the physical evidence—and those are big items, more than one in each category—is it possible that evidence existed and the investigators simply failed to notice it? 

CORNWELL:  Oh, I think it is terribly possible that evidence existed.  It probably did.  I don‘t believe that anybody commits a crime and doesn‘t leave a trace.  It‘s impossible. 

I walked into your studio and I have brought things in trace evidence and I will take it out with me, microscopic things, whether it‘s hairs, fibers, debris.


NORVILLE:  And you‘re sitting in the same chair Joe Tacopina was in, so you now have exchanged evidence.

CORNWELL:  We‘re little walking pigpens with a cloud of microscopic debris following us everywhere we go. 

So, yes, there is evidence.  It isn‘t always easy to find.  There may very well have been ineptitude or laxity on the part of the police.  I don‘t know for certain.  But, yes, there was evidence.  This man is—the perpetrator in this case probably is lucky.  He probably also was rather cool and calculating in how he thought this out. 

NORVILLE:  And so that means it was a terribly premeditated, well thought-out, well in advance. 

CORNWELL:  It doesn‘t strike me as a crime of impulse. 

When you have impulsive crimes, you tend to have more evidence and a show of, you know, lack of control.  That‘s where people make more mistakes, when they do something in a rage.  If something has been thought about for a while, if you dispose of the body and you don‘t really have a crime scene, it makes it very difficult to start tracking evidence. 

NORVILLE:  But if you have been premeditating this, you have to be coming up with your plan, doing research maybe on how to execute the plan.  Surely, there is some sort of change in your demeanor.  Wouldn‘t someone, if Scott Peterson is the killer, around him have noticed his acting differently? 

CORNWELL:  Not necessarily.  There are women who have lived with serial killers and they don‘t know that their honey is going out after midnight and raping and murdering women. 

You know, there are people that say, my God, I had no idea my neighbor was doing that.  So, no, it depends on this person‘s mental health, his affect, how he comes across to other people, whether he has any emotional response to what he has done, whether he feels any kind of guilt or remorse, or whether he simply doesn‘t want to be caught and is vigilant about that. 

NORVILLE:  But given that it‘s a small amount of evidence, we don‘t know how well it is going to be able to link to the murder of Laci Peterson, and Scott Peterson, but given that there is some evidence and there is certainly this pattern of behavior—you want to talk about deception, listen to the tapes.  He is clearly pretty good at it. 

CORNWELL:  It‘s a good circumstantial case. 

NORVILLE:  Is it enough to get a conviction? 

CORNWELL:  Well, I would hope that a really well educated jury would look at this case and factor in the lack of physical evidence.  I don‘t someone to get away with a crime, but I don‘t want to live back in the 18th or 19th century either, where people simply looked funny and you decided they committed something. 

I would like our judiciary system, our legal system to be a little bit more vigilant than that.  And so I would hope that a jury would not convict somebody if there is no physical evidence to link that person to the crime.  We all can look guilty of a lot of things, but it doesn‘t mean we did it.

NORVILLE:  The question is, is there a link in the Scott Peterson case?  When we come back, we‘ll discuss that possibility with Patricia Cornwell.

Stay with us.


NORVILLE:  More on the Scott Peterson murder trial with best-selling crime author Patricia Cornwell. 

Do you think Scott Peterson killed his wife? 

CORNWELL:  I think, like a lot of people, I am terribly suspicious of it.  Emotionally, my little compass needle points right that way, but then my intellect steps in and my integrity and says, whoa, whoa, whoa, that‘s just not enough to go on. 

If I were sitting on the jury, no matter what I feel, right now I would not render a guilty verdict because the evidence is not speaking that loudly to me. 

NORVILLE:  Is there a way she could have been killed in her own home and there not be blood all over the walls, etcetera? 

CORNWELL:  Yes.  Absolutely.


CORNWELL:  Because that‘s a very good question, Deborah, because if let‘s say she were shot in the head or blunt-force trauma and a lot of bleeding.  No matter how vigilant you are about cleaning up a crime scene, blood is not that easy to get rid of. 

You can go in with Luminol and not only find traces of washed-away blood, but see the actual swipe marks of the brush or the sponge or the cloth that was used.  And if you use bleach to try to get rid of it, that bleach will glow like Elmo‘s Fire. 

NORVILLE:  And you can even paint over it and it will still shine through the paint. 

CORNWELL:  It‘s amazing.  And the older it is, the more visible it is because of what hemoglobin and the blood does with that. 

NORVILLE:  OK, a little rope around the neck, a little pillow over the face. 

CORNWELL:  Absolutely, suffocation, smothering, asphyxia.  You strangle somebody, you leave no blood at the scene.  The only thing you might leave is trace evidence, but you expect her trace evidence to be in that house. 

NORVILLE:  Right. 

CORNWELL:  You expect fibers from her maternity clothing, hairs, biologic—body fluids, skin cells.  You expect all of that from her.  She lived there. 

NORVILLE:  And because the body was found in the water many weeks after presumably she was killed, a lot of the evidence, a lot of the body frankly was gone, including her head. 

CORNWELL:  Well, that‘s right.  And, by the way, that‘s not unusual for those parts, hands, feet, head, to be gone, because the soft tissue is eaten by fish and things like that and it decomposes quickly.  And so that‘s not unusual, by the way.

But there‘s also, as I understand it, no evidence that she was dismembered.  There‘s no cut marks or tool marks on any of her joints or bones.  And so again, we don‘t have any reason to know that she did shed any blood. 

NORVILLE:  Right. 

CORNWELL:  So if she were strangled or smothered, for example, that‘s a tough crime scene. 

NORVILLE:  And there‘s no cause of death because there‘s not enough of the body to make that determination either. 


CORNWELL:  Well, that‘s right, because if it was the neck or the head, that‘s gone.  If it‘s soft tissue and that‘s decomposed and there‘s no evidence of the injury to that soft tissue.  And I guess they didn‘t find any other marks, like on bone, for example, that might indicate stabbing or shooting or whatever.

But, again, you have got a crime scene that is already contaminated by her because she lives there. 

NORVILLE:  Right.      

CORNWELL:  So that‘s very much in favor of Scott Peterson, if he did it in his own home. 

NORVILLE:  In the last minute or so we have got, is it possible that this could be the perfect crime? 

CORNWELL:  I don‘t believe there is a perfect crime.  I believe that he may—if he did it, he may have that good fortune for him, that it seems like the perfect crime, but I believe there was something left somewhere. 

NORVILLE:  And do you think that can be found and... 

CORNWELL:  Maybe.  Maybe.  There may be a surprise yet to come.  But nobody commits a perfect crime.  We just may not discover it. 

NORVILLE:  So you don‘t think there will be one of these “Perry Mason” moments, where Della comes running into the courtroom and hands the piece of paper, and suddenly, eureka, we have got what we need to nail him. 

CORNWELL:  I hope there is one.  I hope there‘s something found on that tarp or the duct tape that maybe the scientists haven‘t quite fully processed yet and it does show—it shows that he had contact with the body or with duct tape or with a tarp.  And that is impossible for him to explain away. 

NORVILLE:  So, if you can make a connection, say, with duct tape that he might have in his warehouse or his home or in back of his pickup truck and the duct tape that was found near her body?

CORNWELL:  He is in a lot of trouble.

NORVILLE:  He‘s in a heck of a lot of trouble. 

CORNWELL:  I would say that means he did it. 

NORVILLE:  All right, the trial continues.  Weeks have gone by and weeks will come. 

Patricia Cornwell, thank you very much for being with us. 

CORNWELL:  Thank you.  It‘s nice to be here. 

NORVILLE:  And we should note that Ms. Cornwell has a new book.  It‘s called “Trace,” what we‘ve been talking about.  It hits bookstores on September 7.  And we look forward to talking with her more about that. 

When we come back, your e-mails, and why single women could be a voting bloc to reckon with come November.


NORVILLE:  A lot of you have written in on our program Friday night with Suzanne Somers. 

Lou Leffler wrote in to say: “I want to thank you for an excellent interview with Suzanne Somers.  That is the very kind of positive, enlightening news we need.”

She is a cool woman. 

WKTLNK—that sounds like a radio station—wrote in to say: “It was nice to hear that Suzanne Somers is doing all right,” said, “I found it difficult to tear myself away from the Olympics, but it was worth it.  I think I still have a Thigh Master up in my attic somewhere.”

And we have also gotten a lot of e-mails about our program Saturday with Kenny Rogers. 

Craig Perkuhn wrote to tell us that it was great “seeing Kenny Rogers.  He sure brings back a lot of memories.  He should be a guest judge on ‘American Idol‘ or have them sing his songs.”

That‘s actually a good idea. 

And finally, this one a particular favorite.  Matt D. writes in to

say: “I just wanted to say that I watch your show all the time and I think

it‘s a great program.  I began watching only because Deborah is such a

hottie, but I really ended up liking the show.  If you weren‘t married, I

would ask you out on date.  I‘m only 21, but I think it would be fun”

I am not 21, and I think it would be fun, and we can invite my husband to come along, Matt. 

Thanks so much for writing.  We do love to hear from you, so send us your e-mails to us at NORVILLE@MSNBC.com.  And we have got some of them posted on our Web page at NORVILLE.MSNBC.com, which is the same place you can sign up for our newsletter. 

And that is our program tonight.  But coming up tomorrow, Anita Hill.  It has been almost 13 years since that shocking testimony from her during the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.  Anita Hill will look back.  And she will look ahead at why she thinks that single women could be the deciding factor in determining who wins the White House this year.  Anita Hill is my guest tomorrow.  I hope you will join us. 

And coming up next, Joe Scarborough has more on the ongoing swift boat controversy.  “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY” is next. 

Thanks for watching.


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