updated 9/28/2004 3:59:15 AM ET 2004-09-28T07:59:15

case against Scott Peterson, the jury sees a poignant home video of Laci

and Scott and learns Scott had affairs with more women than just Amber

Frey.  Has the prosecution presented enough evidence to convict, or will

the trial end in a hung jury?>

ANNOUNCER:  DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT.

DEBORAH NORVILLE, HOST:  Was it the perfect crime?  No murder weapon, no crime scene, no cause of death and no witnesses.  If Scott Peterson is guilty, could he get away with murder?  Tonight, as prosecutors prepare to wrap up their case, a grueling day on the stand for Detective Craig Grogan, as he insists Scott‘s the only person who could have killed Laci...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think we‘re probably going to find her over there in the bay.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  ... and the defense argues police rushed to judgment. 

Plus, what influence might this home video play on jurors?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The one thing you always want to do, as a prosecutor, for a jury, is you want to humanize the victim.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

NORVILLE:  And good evening, everybody.  For 18 weeks now, jurors in the Scott Peterson murder trial have listened to testimony, one witness after another, more than 160 of them.  And today, the lead detective in the case, Craig Grogan, was back on the stand after testifying all last week.  And under cross-examination by defense attorney Mark Geragos, it was revealed in court that Peterson had two other affairs while married to Laci besides the one with Amber Frey.

Grogan also backed up a key defense theory that Laci Peterson had planned to walk the couple‘s dog the morning she disappeared.  As you know, the dog was found wandering in the neighborhood alone that morning.  Prosecutors contend that Laci stopped walking the dog weeks earlier due to her pregnancy and that Scott Peterson set the dog loose to make it appear as though someone had abducted her.

Joining me now to talk about what happened in court today and the trial so far is Catherine Crier, host of “Catherine Crier Live” on Court TV.  Also, criminal defense attorney Michael Cardoza.  He is also a former prosecutor.  And criminal defense attorney Trent Copeland is with us, as well.

Folks, the big news today was the testimony in court about the affairs, among other big news.  Catherine, what significance does that have for the jurors to hear that Scott Peterson was unfaithful more than just with Amber Frey?

CATHERINE CRIER, HOST, “CATHERINE CRIER LIVE”:  Well, I think that Mark Geragos accepted from the very beginning that this guy was going to be portrayed as a cad and was acknowledgeably a cad.  And the fact that he had other affairs, Mark can argue, demonstrates that that wouldn‘t be reason to kill his wife.  He‘d been able to play around.  He was playing around with Amber.  He wasn‘t really trying to find a new life.  And in fact, Laci admittedly knew about at least one of these affairs.  So it makes it harder to argue that she, you know, lost it and they had some sort of a fight and he killed her as a result of simply the news.

NORVILLE:  Michael, is this just the defense trying to do an end run around the prosecution and eliminate that possible theory, that he killed her so he could have a beautiful life together with Amber Frey?

MICHAEL CARDOZA, FORMER PROSECUTOR, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST:  Well, I‘ll tell you, I like—what Catherine said is absolutely right.  But look behind what Geragos is doing because he asked Grogan on the stand, Didn‘t Laci tell you, through the sister—now, there‘s a sister-in-law of Peterson that says, you know, Laci didn‘t want that first affair told about to her parents.  So it really helps him because if he had an affair before and Laci didn‘t want anybody to know about that, especially her parents, doesn‘t it make sense that this affair she wants to keep in her pocket, close to the vest?  It‘s a perfect strategy by Geragos, bring it out now, show that Laci doesn‘t want anyone to know about his affairs.

NORVILLE:  Trent, there‘s also this testimony about the dog-walking.  And today there was videotape played in court which showed the yoga center where Laci had been going for a series of pre-natal yoga visits.  And one of the things that the jurors saw in this tape is that the yoga classes were held on the second floor, with no elevator.  You had to go up the steps, and she had attended the class just a few days before her disappearance.  Why is that so significant?

TRENT COPELAND, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Well, I think it‘s significant, frankly, Deborah, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is for the defense—and maybe this one really goes in the column for the defense.  You know, the prosecution has said all along that Laci was just too tired to have walked the dog, that she could not have gone into some of these more exerting kind of yoga classes.  But the truth of the matter is, as we learned today, she would have walked up those stairs to that yoga class.  We‘ve also learned that she had continued to do yoga.  And just the day before, Deborah, she had gone to the grocery store and had purchased over $90 worth of groceries.

Now, you know, Catherine Crier has said to me on different occasions that $90 isn‘t a lot of groceries.

(LAUGHTER)

CRIER:  Not anymore!

COPELAND:  But you know, the fact of the mater is that, you know, she had those groceries.  She‘d gone out grocery shopping on her own, and she‘d had bags of groceries.  And so it‘s not inconsistent to think that she would have walked the dog, that maybe she would have mopped that floor, as Scott Peterson has suggested, and maybe, in fact, she was still continuing to go to those yoga classes that we know were taking place on a second floor.  So it‘s not inconsistent, Deborah, to imagine that Laci was still quite active on the day that she went missing.

CRIER:  There is a big difference, though, if we think about it, between walking a dog, who could get alarmed and take off and trying to chase a cat or anything else—also, anyone who‘s looked at the walkway from the house down the street, down a sandy, gravely slope that is a pretty good slope, down to this trail in the park—that‘s very different than simply climbing steps and going into a regulated, monitored pregnancy class that involves yoga.

NORVILLE:  But what I don‘t...

CARDOZA:  You know what?

NORVILLE:  Yes, go ahead, Michael.

CARDOZA:  What‘s really important, I think, is today, Geragos was able to get out on cross-examination that Sharon Rocha thought her daughter would be walking the dog that morning.  That‘s important.  Here‘s her mom that knows, hey, she‘s good enough to walk.  She‘s healthy enough.  And I expect her to be out there walking that day.  That‘s pretty darn important.

NORVILLE:  It is important because—it‘s important, Michael, because it comes from Sharon directly in conversation with Laci, not Sharon saying, Scott told me that.  This was mother-to-daughter conversation that we were hearing in court today.

COPELAND:  That‘s right.  That‘s right, Deborah.  And if I can just jump in here real quick—I think it‘s important significantly because it doesn‘t come from Scott Peterson and it doesn‘t come from someone who the defense has put on that witness stand.  It comes from Sharon Rocha, who has an incentive to go along with the prosecution‘s theory.  So I really think this was important evidence for the defense today.

CRIER:  But also, Grogan testified that this was—that she said 7:30 in the morning was when she normally did this.  We also know that because of Scott‘s meringue reference, he didn‘t walk out of that house until after 9:48, at which time she was barefoot, mopping and allegedly in black and white clothes, not the clothes she was found in.  And the dog is found by 10:18.  We‘re talking about an 18 to sort of 23-minute window in which she finished mopping, changed clothes, put her shoes on, got the dog out and took off.  Not very reasonable.

NORVILLE:  And we don‘t know—but look, the woman was seven-and-a-half months pregnant.  I don‘t know how many people sitting on that jury have been seven-and-a-half months pregnant, but you don‘t move that fast when you‘ve been barefoot and mopping the floor.  The idea that she could have gotten in and out of the house that quickly is one that the jurors will have to wonder about, isn‘t it, Michael?

CARDOZA:  Well, you‘ve got to believe that timeline in order to believe that.  You‘re absolutely right there.  What I thought was more interesting today, though, was the fact that a deputy district attorney in that area had phoned the Modesto police and said, Look, I was accosted in court—in pursuit of her job in the area—by a criminal, violent person.  And I walk my dog in the park.  Interestingly enough—this is certainly an aside—but she had a golden retriever, same name, McKenzie (ph).  And she said, You know, it might be the same guy that came after me, that may have mistaken Laci for me.  I thought that was an interesting bit of cross.

NORVILLE:  It‘s an interesting bit of cross.  It‘s an interesting sidebar.  But there‘s absolutely no evidence other than that to bring that person into the discussion.

CARDOZA:  No, but you know what wins jury trials is those little details.  And jurors think, Well, maybe—maybe somebody did that.  Maybe Scott‘s telling the truth here.

(CROSSTALK)

NORVILLE:  OK, last point on this, Catherine.

CRIER:  Yes, here‘s the person.  A woman by the name of Newsom (ph) was the female subject who apparently had threatened the DA after the sentencing of one of her family members.  This had nothing to do with Laci Peterson.

NORVILLE:  OK, let‘s move on.  And what I want to move on to is a videotape that the jury saw last week, a clip in which Scott Peterson, in an interview with Diane Sawyer of ABC News, talks about how difficult it is to go into certain rooms of his house.  Let‘s roll the clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DIANE SAWYER, ABC NEWS:  Tell me about the nursery.

SCOTT PETERSON, CHARGED WITH DOUBLE MURDER:  I can‘t go in there. 

That door is closed (UNINTELLIGIBLE).  But it‘s ready.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  The jury heard Scott Peterson say, I can‘t go into the nursery, and yet they saw this videotape, which was taken by police when they did a search of the home, which, when we get to that, we‘re going to see the baby nursery looks like a storage facility.  There‘s stuff all over the place.  And the bed is filled with cushions.  There‘s even one of those wheel-lock (ph) things across there.  Office furniture has been stored in there.  You‘ve certainly got to wonder how difficult it is to go into that room yourself, and then you‘ve got to ask the question, If Scott wasn‘t putting all this stuff in there, who was using the nursery as a storage facility?

Trent, how much does that hurt, again, that little question in the jury‘s mind?

COPELAND:  Deborah, you know, you could not have made a better point.  The fact of the matter is that here we have Scott Peterson, on the one hand, crying and seeming to be very consistent with what we would expect a husband who‘s lost his pregnant wife and their soon to be child, but then on the other hand, he‘s saying something that doesn‘t really match what we‘re seeing on that video.  And that is, that he is going in that room.  He‘s clearly going in that room, or at the very least, he‘s allowing others to go in that room and had turned that room into a veritable shed for his workbench and his work products.  So it just really is inconsistent.

It‘s another one of those inconsistencies where, you know, really, Mark Geragos is going to have to look at this jury and say to them, Are you going to believe me or are you going to believe your lying eyes?  The fact of the matter is, it really is something that really damages the defense when we have Scott Peterson, on the one hand, saying something that doesn‘t match what we‘re also seeing in those videos.

NORVILLE:  Michael, how does Geragos address that when he gets his crack at this, beginning on Thursday?

CARDOZA:  Well, I‘ll tell you, first of all, the family took down the Christmas tree.  It wasn‘t Scott that took the Christmas tree down.  And in looking at those videos, it‘s not quite as cluttered as you—you know, one would think.  What they did, he had to move out of the warehouse.  They moved some furniture in there.  How do we know it was Scott?  We don‘t know it was Scott.  Scott could well stay away, the family helps move it over, the family puts it in there without Scott knowing.  I mean, that may be a very logical explanation.

And does it really mean that much?  I don‘t think so, in this case.  I don‘t think that‘s what the jury will look to.  It certainly may not bode well for him, but it‘s certainly easily explainable and not that big a deal.

NORVILLE:  Catherine...

(CROSSTALK)

CRIER:  Yes, not at all because, in fact, when the cops went over there and conducted the search where they did the videotape, that‘s when he shut down the adult channel.  He knew the cops were coming.  He got that taken care of.  He was in the house at the time.  He knew what was in that room, and he represented to both Diane and Gloria Gomez that door would never be open until there was a little guy in there.

NORVILLE:  There‘s also the question...

CARDOZA:  Yes, but...

NORVILLE:  Well, we‘ve got to move on, guys, because we can get stuck on a topic forever because this case is so interesting.  Also today in court, Craig—the detective, Craig Grogan, also said that they never dusted for fingerprints.  There was never any effort made by the Modesto police to do a thorough search within the Peterson home, looking for latent fingerprints.  And he says that‘s because Scott Peterson indicated that there had been no struggle, didn‘t look like forced entry.  Is that a win, Michael?

CARDOZA:  Is it a win?  Yes, I think it is a win because good police, what do they do?  They‘re going to take fingerprints.  I mean, don‘t we all expect that?  You go to a crime scene, what, you‘re going to believe the guy that you suspect?  And you know, right from the get-go, they thought Scott Peterson committed this murder.  I mean, that‘s good police work.  The husband, most logical suspect.  So let‘s take fingerprints just to eliminate someone else may have—you know, might have done it.  When I was a DA, I want to eliminate people out of it.  So police take the fingerprints just in case they come up with that defense, they should have taken it.

CRIER:  What fingerprints?  What—yes, it would be lovely that they did so.  We would love a perfect world.  But whose fingerprints are going to tell us anything?  There was no evidence...

CARDOZA:  Yes, but the lack of fingerprints...

CRIER:  ... of a struggle...

CARDOZA:  ... will.  The lack of prints will.

CRIER:  But his prints are going to be all over that house!

CARDOZA:  So what?

CRIER:  Yes.  Exactly.

CARDOZA:  The lack of prints are important.

NORVILLE:  I got to say, I‘m with Michael on this one because you‘re only going to find Scott Peterson‘s prints and Laci‘s prints in there, assuming that Scott Peterson, as the police contend, is the guy who did it.

We got to take a short break.  When we come back, what is the jury thinking right now?  We‘ll get into that with our panel.  And then in a few minutes, forensic expert, best-selling author Patricia Cornwell on whether Laci Peterson‘s killer might have committed the perfect crime.  Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NORVILLE:  We‘re looking at the Scott Peterson murder trial, as the prosecution‘s expected to rest its case later this week.  Back with Court TV host Catherine Crier, former prosecutor Michael Cardoza and criminal defense attorney Trent Copeland.

Folks, you know, we got a case where there‘s no specific crime scene. 

We don‘t have a murder weapon.  We don‘t have a precise cause of death.  There are a lot of question marks.  So I wonder how important it is for the jury to like the prosecution or like the defense.  How important is it for them to believe the person presenting the case?  Michael, you first.

CARDOZA:  Well, I‘ll tell you what, I‘m not so sure it‘s “like.” 

Like‘s nice, but I think trust is much more important.  And in this case,

because of the prosecution‘s faux pas right from the beginning with that

meringue-gate—you all remember that, where they got the-

NORVILLE:  The Martha Stewart show.

CARDOZA:  Yes, exactly.  You start with that.  You start with the district attorney‘s being chided, scolded in front of the jury for not giving discovery to Geragos.  I think this jury has lost faith in them and really can‘t trust them.  And then you get to—I‘ll give you the example, the bucket that the anchor was made in.  Geragos asked the witness on the stand, the detective, Hendie (ph), Hendie, you didn‘t testify on direct that the bucket was not the form in which the anchor was made.  Why not?  Well, gosh, the DAs didn‘t ask me.  Why don‘t they ask questions like that?

All the time, Geragos has to get up and give the jury the other half of the story.  I‘m telling you, during argument, they‘re going to look more to Geragos than they are to the prosecution because I think they trust him more.  And that‘s unusual in a case like this.  They don‘t quite trust the DAs the same as they do the defense.

NORVILLE:  Trent, are you seeing that, as well, or do you see it from a different point of view?

COPELAND:  You know, look, I‘ve been in that courtroom, Deborah.  And in fact, I‘ve sat next to Michael in that courtroom and we‘ve exchanged notes.  And I‘m going to talk first, if I can, quickly, Deborah, about your first question, which is whether or not they like the presenters of the evidence, Mark Geragos and the prosecution.  I can tell you, Deborah, that they like Mark Geragos.  I‘m not so certain how they feel about Rick Distaso, who‘s running this case for the prosecution.

But they clearly were sitting up in their seats.  They were taking those notes.  They would unfold their arms, and they had a bearing that seemed to be reflective of them taking in information, willingly so, when Mark Geragos presented his case.  And it wasn‘t so when the prosecution did.

Now, I think something‘s changed since Amber Frey.  And that is, the whole tone, the whole tenor, the whole character of this case has changed.  And now I see those same jurors sitting back in their chairs when Mark Geragos gets up to present his case, and they fold their arms.  So I think things have shifted.  So I do think they like him.  I‘m not certain they still like him after the Amber Frey presentation.  And I do thi8nk they trust him.  And I think the prosecution has, in the last month or so, earned that trust.  And I think the question becomes, Is it too little, too late?

NORVILLE:  So they may have undone some of the damage from the beginning of the case.

COPELAND:  Yes.

NORVILLE:  Catherine, what do you think?  How critical is it that there be an emotional connection between the jurors and the attorneys on both sides?

CRIER:  Well, you certainly want them to like you, but they also -- - as Michael said, trust and respect.  I think Brochini—there were several other things, in addition to what Trent mentioned at the beginning, that were real problems.  But now, post-Amber, they‘ve got a lot of strong points.  Grogan is very, very strong.  They still have the evidence about what was found in the car.

All of these things began to lead them to question the impressions that Geragos was giving them, as he should, that, My client is innocent, he‘s a good guy.  Maybe he‘s a bit of a cad.  But he has taken on a new personality in the last couple of weeks of the prosecution‘s case.  And no matter who they like the best at counsel table, if they ultimately truly believe that this guy was capable of killing his wife and unborn son, that takes away the personality factor on the attorneys‘ part.

NORVILLE:  One thing that we know about that the jury hasn‘t yet heard because we heard it in preliminary hearings, and that is the car.  When Scott Peterson was arrested, the car that he was in, the money that was in the car, the numerous cell phones that were in the car, his brother‘s identification...

CRIER:  The camping gear.  My Lord!

NORVILLE:  ... the camping gear—I mean, he clearly was looking to stay away for a long time.  Yet the jury hasn‘t heard that.  If the prosecution‘s going to get it out there, it‘s got to come in the next three days, doesn‘t it?

CRIER:  Oh, absolutely.  It‘s going to be the conclusion of the case.  I mean, there may be a few more bits and pieces.  You‘ve got the tides, this kind of thing.  But that will be, essentially, the wrapping-up.  And unfortunately, I understand there‘s a pretty weak charge that all this stuff isn‘t necessarily evidence of flight, which could be evidence of guilt.  But in fact, it‘s going to be a pretty impressive list of things that no one who‘s planning to go home in the near future would have in their car.

NORVILLE:  And Michael, will there not be an effort on the part of Mark Geragos to prevent that from being entered into evidence?

CARDOZA:  No, it‘s...

NORVILLE:  And can they do so?

CARDOZA:  It‘s coming into evidence.  I mean, Geragos may have tried to present it in a 402 hearing, but it is coming in.  But remember, a lot of people think that he was somewhere near the border going into Mexico.  That‘s not true.  He was about 60 miles away.  And as far as the camping gear, I would assume that Geragos will explain it because of the hordes of press that were following him that he wanted to get away and perhaps he was going to go camping.  There are some explanations.  He had $10,000 in cash.

I mean, one of the emotional buttons is the Viagra that he had in his pocket.  That‘s going to push some emotional buttons for some of the jury.

NORVILLE:  I‘m not sure it‘s a button that the defense wants to have

pushed, though!~

CARDOZA:  No, I‘m sure it‘s not.  But I still think that they have a chance to explain that because when he gets out of the car, he walks right up to the police, when they get him at Torrey (ph) Pines Golf Club, and they—he walks up and he says, Have you guys found my wife and my child?  What‘s going on?  So that‘s the first thing out of his mouth there.  That cuts in his favor.

NORVILLE:  After 160 miles...

NORVILLE:  Oh, wait a second!

CRIER:  ... of chasing.

NORVILLE:  Hold on a second, Michael.

CARDOZA:  Yes, you‘re right.  You‘re absolutely right.

NORVILLE:  I got to bring this in there because he asked that question four days after the bodies were found.  Now, this is a man who throughout the investigation was constantly calling the police, as detective after detective have testified.

CARDOZA:  Right.

NORVILLE:  And yet, when the bodies were finally found in the bay, you didn‘t hear from Scott Peterson.

CARDOZA:  Yes, but remember what Grogan did to him.  Grogan gets on the phone and says, All right, let‘s cut out the baloney here.  Let‘s get to it.  You and I are both going to know the bodies are going to be found in the bay, Scott.  So why don‘t you give it up to me?  Let‘s talk.  So that puts Grogan in favor with Scott?  No, I don‘t think so.  And don‘t forget, he‘s lawyered up by then...

CRIER:  You bet.

CARDOZA:  ... and you know darn well the lawyer‘s saying, Don‘t talk to anybody.  If they find them, I‘ll tell you about it.  You stay away.

CRIER:  He could have called his mother, for heaven‘s sakes!

CARDOZA:  Well, he might have called his mother, but...

NORVILLE:  Well, hold on a second...

COPELAND:  Yes, I don‘t—I don‘t...

CARDOZA:  ... that‘s not what we‘re talking about.

NORVILLE:  You got—you got to wonder...

COPELAND:  I don‘t know about—I don‘t...

NORVILLE:  You got to wonder how lawyered up he was because when he was face to face with the detective—and the detective last week testified when he informed him that the bodies were, in fact, that of his late wife and his unborn son, he took off his glasses, a tear was in the right eye, and he wiped the left eye.  Trent, is the jury going to remember that?

CARDOZA:  He wiped the right eye, too.

COPELAND:  I think the—look, I think the jury‘s going to remember it.  I think it‘s all going to resonate to this jury.  The fact of the matter is, even if he was lawyered up, as Michael suggested—and I‘m not certain that he was because if he was, he would have gotten, I think, better counsel, which would have said, If you don‘t want to call Grogan, you don‘t like him because you think he‘s being presumptuous, call someone else.  Even call your own family after these bodies have turned up.  So I‘m not certain about that.

I think it‘ll resonate with this jury, and I think it‘ll have a real impact on this jury that he didn‘t call or attempt to make any contact with anyone in his family or anyone else within four days of his wife‘s body turning up.  And I think that‘s got to resonate with this jury, and I think it‘ll have a huge impact on the outcome of the case.

NORVILLE:  In the last couple of minutes that we‘ve got, I want each of you to assess the case and which way you think the jury‘s going to go, based on what you‘ve seen so far.  Michael, you first.

CARDOZA:  Well, I‘ll tell you what.  It‘s difficult to ever—I mean, one thing I know in trying cases for 30 years, you never know what a verdict will be, ever.  I‘m looking for this to hang because I think there are going to be people on that jury that are entrenched in their position.  And with a circumstantial evidence case, you can infer whatever you want from the circumstantial evidence.  So if you think Scott is guilty, you‘re going to stick with that, and vice versa.  So I am, unfortunately, looking for a hung jury in this case.

NORVILLE:  Catherine?

CRIER:  I have to go right along with Michael because a situation like this, the DA may—ought to hope it‘s going to be a hung jury because, in fact, it‘s going to be people saying, We may have thought he did it, but they didn‘t prove it beyond a reasonable doubt.  And I‘ll bet you Geragos has a couple of those on the panel.

NORVILLE:  And Trent?

COPELAND:  You know, I think of all the money that was spent in this case by the Petersons, that probably the best bit of money they spent was on those jury consultants.  When I go down that list, Deborah, I don‘t see one single juror that I could imagine voting for the prosecution, whether it is the woman whose husband died while he was in prison for murder, or the devout Catholic who had to go to his priest to figure out whether or not he could really serve on a jury.  I just don‘t see it.

I think it‘s probably going to be a hung jury.  I think probably most of the jurors will probably vote to acquit, and I think there‘ll be a fairly sizable number who will vote to convict Scott Peterson.  But I don‘t think we‘ll find a verdict in this case.

NORVILLE:  All right, if there‘s no...

CARDOZA:  Keep in mind we don‘t know what we‘re talking about, as lawyers.

(LAUGHTER)

CRIER:  Absolutely!

NORVILLE:  Michael, thank you for that!  Well, we‘ll just wait and see, as we know the prosecution is going to be getting—resting its case by the end of the week.  Catherine Crier, Michael Cardoza, Trent Copeland, thanks, all three of you, for being with me.

ANNOUNCER:  Up next: Was Laci Peterson the victim of a perfect crime?  Forensic expert and author Patricia Cornwell on why she thinks it‘s possible Laci‘s killer could get away with murder.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

NORVILLE:  At the Scott Peterson murder trial today, defense attorney Mark Geragos pointed out all of the evidence that the prosecution doesn‘t have, no murder weapon, no crime scene, no cause of death, and no direct witnesses.  So is there enough evidence to convict Scott Peterson? 

Joining me now is forensics consultant and best-selling crime author Patricia Cornwell.  Her new book, “Trace,” just debuted at No. 1 on “The New York Times” best-seller list. 

Congratulations on that.

PATRICIA CORNWELL, CRIME AUTHOR:  Well, thank you. 

NORVILLE:  That‘s exciting.

CORNWELL:  Thank you.  And it‘s nice to see you again.

NORVILLE:  You, too.  Thank you for coming back.

I know you‘re back because this case—this case has grabbed you for some reason.  Why? 

CORNWELL:  Well, this is an incredibly frustrating case, because everything—you know, the needle on the compass emotionally points that this man, Scott Peterson, murdered his pregnant wife.  But the evidence, or lack thereof, is terribly, terribly troublesome, and as I said, very, very frustrating. 

I feel sorry for the prosecution in a case like this.  I feel sorry for the police, and I wonder what‘s been missed that might have really had a good story to tell. 

NORVILLE:  Just a moment ago, we were talking about the testimony today.  Geragos asked the detective were any fingerprints taken.  The answer was no.  And Michael Cardoza made the point that it would have been good if for no other reason than to prove that no one else had been there.  Is part of the frustration of this case shoddy police work, in your opinion? 

CORNWELL:  I don‘t want to call it shoddy police work, because police are realistic.  They go in.  They make decisions.  They do the best they can under whatever circumstances are presented. 

But in a perfect world, you should do everything you possibly can.  Yes, you should dust for fingerprints.  You should look for them, because what if there was an intruder?  At least you can rule that out later, and you‘re going to be asked in court, did you do this and this and this?  And if you get a series of no responses, it looks bad to the jurors. 

NORVILLE:  Isn‘t there sort of a checklist in the same way that a pilot, at the end of the runway, before he guns it, has 15 or 20 things he has to check?  Don‘t forensics experts have the same list? 

(CROSSTALK)

CORNWELL:  I can‘t imagine why they didn‘t dust for fingerprints, because even if you‘re assuming—what does that tell you?  It tells you you‘re assuming that the husband probably did it and his prints are all over the house.  Well, you can‘t make assumptions like that.  That is going way before what the evidence will or won‘t say, saying as you collect evidence.

So I don‘t think that was a good idea.  I think you should dust for prints.  You want to make sure there aren‘t prints in there.  What if you did that and put them in the Automated Fingerprint Identification System, AFIS, and you got hit on a convicted killer or a convicted felon who had just gotten out of prison?  What if?

NORVILLE:  What if?

CORNWELL:  And someone is going to raise those what-ifs, and the jurors are going to raise those what-ifs.  And so you don‘t make exclusions like that.  Go ahead and do it, and if it doesn‘t tell you anything, at least you did your homework. 

NORVILLE:  Having said that, you think the cops were on the right track, that it probably was the husband?  You even have a theory on how you think he might have pulled what some are saying could be the perfect crime.

CORNWELL:  Well, what you have here seems to be a bloodless murder.  The emphasis has repeatedly been no blood has been found.  Laci Peterson‘s blood has not been found.  So how is that possible?

Well, yes, you can clean up after a crime, but there are chemical tests, such as Luminol, that even if you‘ve washed it all away, it will not find only remnants of the blood that you can‘t see, but it can even find bleach or some kind of cleaning fluids that have been used in doing that sort of cleanup job. 

But more than likely, what you have here is because blood, there can be little minuscule amounts that you think you‘ve wiped up and they‘re still there, more than likely what you have is a case where the murder was committed without that kind of trauma.  And how do you do that?  Well, you can do suffocation, asphyxia.  You could strangle somebody.  And that would not be at all uncommon.  That‘s a clean way to kill somebody.  And also, it‘s—I hate to say it—a very calculating way to do it. 

NORVILLE:  Wouldn‘t that, though, leave evidence of a struggle? 

CORNWELL:  It might not.  You‘ve got a woman who‘s approximately eight months pregnant.  How agile is she going to be?  If she‘s on the bed or on the couch or even on the floor, you could pin this person down very easily, which could explain the broken ribs that were found on her body if you‘re kneeling on her chest or her torso to get a good purchase on her while you‘re strangling or suffocating.  You can sit on somebody and stop them from breathing and asphyxiate that way. 

NORVILLE:  Well, particularly, if you‘re pregnant, you‘ve already got, it‘s tough to breathe when you‘re that pregnant.

CORNWELL:  It‘s already compromised.  And, certainly, what you could find—for example, theoretically, if you strangled somebody in bed or smothered them, like put a pillow over their face, sometimes you‘ll get some—a little leakage of...

NORVILLE:  Saliva or...

CORNWELL:  Well, of edema or just fluid, pulmonary fluid, from the lungs, and it‘s kinds of a watery-looking bloody substance that you might find on the pillowcase, easily missed.  And he could have washed it away. 

But that kind of case, where you already expect the victim to have been in that residence, what are you going to do?  Maybe she kicked things around.  Well, you pick them up and straighten them up.  What you don‘t have is blood everywhere or bullets and things like that. 

NORVILLE:  It‘s funny because in your new book, “Trace,” there‘s a similar thing, and you call it “Burkeing” (ph), where the guy—and it‘s actually named for some guy who got convicted whose last name was Burke and this is the way he had suffocated somebody. 

CORNWELL:  Again, I almost hated to use that in my book because it‘s a really scary thing to do to people. 

But there‘s an infamous pair of killers back in the 1800s Burke and Hare, and they were body snatchers.  They would dig up bodies and sell them to medical schools.  And they‘d say, oh, this would be kind of easy.  Why don‘t we just go ahead and kill people in a very secretive way and sell the fresh bodies to—in Edinburgh to the medical school.  So what they would do is, particularly if someone was compromised, like drunk, you get them down on the floor and you sit on them. 

(CROSSTALK)

CORNWELL:  And what it does is, it compromises your breathing.  Your chest is compressed.  And it‘s sort of a combination of being smothered and asphyxiated.  It leaves very little evidence, except sometimes it leaves broken ribs. 

NORVILLE:  Which is what she had. 

CORNWELL:  She did.

NORVILLE:  And it could have happened, though, being dumped out of a boat or something.  They could have broken when she was being transported. 

CORNWELL:  Absolutely.  On the side of the boat, she could have...

NORVILLE:  I have to ask you this, as an author who uses realistic situations in her book.  We see the top shows on television this week are all shows based on forensics, based on crimes, “CSI,” pick the city.  They‘re all No. 1.  We see it at the movies. 

Is it possible that just watching the media, reading books, going to the theater, someone could learn enough about how to commit a crime that they could pull off the Laci Peterson murder? 

CORNWELL:  Well, certainly.  The better versed you are in forensic science and forensic medicine and criminalistics, and if you‘re a thoughtful person who has control of his or her impulses.

And that is very important here, because what is it the one thing this killer has done here in the Laci Peterson case?  Talked.  And if Scott Peterson had poor impulse control, saying that he is the killer, it‘s very possible he may have said something to somebody that could have been incriminating.  People do this all the time.  They say things in jail.  They say something in a bar, and that‘s what gets them. 

And this person is very, very quiet and has a lot of self-control.  So if I were that kind of very thoughtful person, I would read everything I could about all these types of cases and I would learn what‘s a good way to kill somebody or not or what kind of evidence you might leave or what you should look for.  Sure. 

NORVILLE:  Doesn‘t that give you the creeps, that you could conceivably have given someone a primer on how to commit murder? 

CORNWELL:  Well, the Bible has influenced people to kill people, too, so I can‘t worry about that so much.  I try not to give what I call recipes for murder, to really make it easy. 

But I will say this.  It is just a fact that people are going to watch television and movies and read books.  And your average person is not going to be influenced into committing a violent crime because of that.  But, you know, I do get mail, I have to admit.  I get it from inmates.  I‘ve had inmates write me and thank me for all the help I‘ve given them.  And, no, I don‘t like that a whole lot. 

NORVILLE:  Well, I hope they don‘t know where you live.

(LAUGHTER)

NORVILLE:  We‘re going to take a short break.  More with Patricia Cornwell in just a second. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NORVILLE:  No murder weapon, no crime scene, and no witnesses.  Did Laci Peterson‘s killer commit the perfect crime? 

More with best-selling author Patricia Cornwell in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NORVILLE:  We‘re back talking about the Scott Peterson murder trial. 

Was Laci Peterson‘s murder truly the perfect crime? 

We‘re with forensics consultant, best-selling author Patricia Cornwell who‘s been talking us through the evidence. 

And in terms of evidence, there‘s not a lot, but they do have the bodies, and they do have the body of the baby, which last week it was testified that that baby was estimated to be about 33 weeks gestation, which would have put the baby‘s time of death and Laci‘s time of death more or less the day she disappeared. 

CORNWELL:  Well, that‘s true. 

But the most interesting evidence about the fetus—and I will call it a fetus—because I do not believe that the baby was born.  The most interesting is really what the forensic pathologist said in his testimony about the autopsy, and that is the common sense fact that if you have an infant that was already born and you put it in the water the first week of February, that infant is not going to be found washed up on the shore with mom‘s body in April.  You have decomposition.  The skin is fragile.  The bones are very small and fragile.

You have a very small person.  I‘m afraid there‘s a lot of predatory activity that goes on with fish and other things like that in the water.  The likelihood of that little baby‘s body still being preserved in April to me is almost impossible to imagine.  What‘s far more possible—and the forensic pathologist pointed this out—is that the body of the mother protected that little child in death, just as it did in life, and that little body was finally expelled as she decomposed to a point that it could no longer contain the fetus.  And that was expelled and that‘s why it was found in a remarkable state of preservation. 

It was intact.  It had all its organs, all its limbs.  Laci Peterson did not.  She was missing her lower limbs, her head.  She had been decomposing as you would expect.  The other thing that‘s interesting and common sense the jurors ought to consider here is if Laci had been abducted and kept for seven weeks, her decomposition would be far less than it was when you look at the remains as they were found. 

NORVILLE:  And because that‘s one theory floated by the defense.  If in fact that was the reason for her disappearance, the baby probably wouldn‘t have been found, because it would have been given, taken, by whomever wanted the baby and the mother would have been disposed of. 

CORNWELL:  I think common sense, what the bodies are telling us is that the baby and mother died at approximately the same time, and that infant was protected by her body for months in the water.  That‘s what it‘s telling us. 

NORVILLE:  Do the bodies tell us enough about who committed the crime? 

CORNWELL:  Unfortunately, they don‘t.  But when you talk about a perfect crime, I will say this—if it were really perfect, you should never have found the bodies at all. 

If you really, really want to be clever, don‘t let anybody ever find the bodies, because that really makes it hard.  This was a cleverly disguised homicide.  I think the person also is lucky.  I think there probably is evidence somewhere that has not been found and may never have been found.  It may have been washed away or swept away or tracked out the door.  Who knows.  Or maybe it just wasn‘t looked for. 

But it does make it far more difficult that the bodies can‘t tell us much now, because they are so decomposed.  And what we don‘t have, for example, is a cause of death with her.  I could speculate as to what might have been a cause of death with her based on what we do have with those remains and based on the bloodless nature of the evidence or the searches for that evidence.  But it sure would be helpful if you knew exactly how she had died. 

NORVILLE:  Last week the prosecution also presented videotape that was taken last summer of Laci Peterson and her girlfriend.  And the video was taken by Scott. 

Let‘s just roll that for a moment and then we‘ll talk about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LACI PETERSON, WIFE OF SCOTT PETERSON:  Who is that going to?

SCOTT PETERSON, DEFENDANT:  I don‘t know.

L. PETERSON:  He‘s going to find me a husband.

S. PETERSON:  I was going to send it to Osama and make him envious.  OK.  I was holding—both you guys wave to the camera now.  Come on.  Both you guys wave to the camera now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  Not the most cooperative people.  They were busy cooking and having fun.  But it paints a picture of a happy young couple with their friends at the beach hanging out doing what most young couples that age do, which is just enjoy each other‘s company.  It made Laci not just a photograph, but a human. 

CORNWELL:  That‘s right.  That‘s very well put. 

What it did is, it took an abstraction and made it real.  And oftentimes by this stage in a murder trial, the victim‘s been reduced to pieces of evidence, alibis, a fleck of paints, a fingerprint, a hair, a fiber and maybe a still photograph.  But we do not feel the energy of that person when he or she was alive. 

So to see that is a powerful tool.  That‘s when people suddenly feel her loss.  And you may have even gotten several jurors who were marginal who now have a very strong emotional response, who say, oh, he did it. 

NORVILLE:  A lot of people have been critical of the way the prosecution has handled this from the get-go.  But it would seem that there‘s sort of a building of the case, starting, as our earlier guest said, with Amber Frey.

And now we‘ve had a lot of very specific information.  We‘ll probably hear about what was in the car when Scott was arrested.  But seeing Laci, seeing her alive, vibrant, excited, adorable on camera kind of makes a crescendo as the prosecution ends its case.  Is it enough to carry over as the defense makes its rebuttal? 

CORNWELL:  You know, that‘s a tough one.  I wouldn‘t want to be on this jury, because the emotional evidence, the circumstantial evidence, they‘re very, very powerful.  I mean, this does not look like a nice man.  There‘s a lot of very suspicious things that he did or didn‘t do. 

But they also can be explained away, if you really want to.  The problem still remains.  Whether you see that video footage and you feel terrible about what happened to her, the problem remains that you just don‘t have a good physical link between Scott Peterson and a crime scene or his dead wife and son. 

NORVILLE:  And absent that physical link, can a juror vote to convict beyond a reasonable doubt? 

(CROSSTALK) 

NORVILLE:  We‘ll take a short break.  Back with Patricia Cornwell in a moment. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NORVILLE:  The prosecution‘s been presenting its case in the Scott Peterson murder trial now for 18 weeks.  Supposedly, it will rest its case later this week.  And what‘s next now for Scott Peterson and the trial? 

Patricia Cornwell is a best-selling crime author, forensics consultant. 

And you were saying just a moment ago that, absent physical evidence, how is the jury going to vote to convict?  Do you think it will a hung jury or do you think he will be acquitted? 

CORNWELL:  Well, I think it‘s very possible it will be a hung jury.  But acquittal is not out of the question either, because people are much better versed in evidence and particularly forensic science and medicine these days.  And if you are a purist, I don‘t see how you can come back with a guilty verdict here. 

There‘s just not enough to go on.  No matter what your instincts tell you, we cannot—he‘s innocent unless proven guilty.  And to me there‘s just not the proof that you really wish you could have. 

NORVILLE:  Should the prosecution have not taken this case to court, then? 

CORNWELL:  I don‘t see how they could not, you know, take it to court.  You had to.  And I suppose a lot of times it‘s not until you get into something really deeply that you begin to realize maybe there‘s no there there in terms of the evidence that you might like. 

And I‘m sure that they‘re very convinced that he did it, and they‘re hoping the jurors will have an emotional response to the circumstantial evidence.  But as somewhat of a purist, I know I could not do that.  I could not render a guilty verdict based on what I‘ve seen so far. 

NORVILLE:  But it‘s possible that a jury can return an emotional verdict. 

CORNWELL:  They certainly can. 

NORVILLE:  If they feel compelled to say guilty, even though I don‘t have a physical link between the dead body and the man on trial.

CORNWELL:  And justice may be served if they do that.  But, from an evidentiary point of view, it‘s a problem for people—for a lot of us. 

But that doesn‘t mean he‘s innocent just because there isn‘t significant physical evidence. 

NORVILLE:  On the other hand, if there were to be a hung jury in this case—and we don‘t know how long the defense side of this is going to last.  We‘re told it‘s probably going to be a couple of months itself.  Would there be enough evidence to go back a second time?  In your professional opinion, would it make sense for the prosecution to try again? 

CORNWELL:  Not unless they turn up something new that we don‘t know about.  I mean, what?  What are they going to bring up the second time around that hasn‘t been discussed?  The same hairs that were found in the boat that really don‘t mean anything, the medical evidence of what state the bodies are in? 

I mean, I don‘t see—I fail to see anything that could be explored more thoroughly that might tell us something. 

NORVILLE:  So what do you think is the next chapter in Scott Peterson‘s life? 

CORNWELL:  Oh, he‘s going to get a nice book contract and be a bit of a celebrity in a very dark, awful way, because that‘s what happens to these people.  If he does—if he in fact is acquitted, he will profit handsomely from all this, because he‘s become a major celebrity, and, again, in a very dark way. 

And it seems crimes get rewarded sometimes, if he in fact did this.  But one would hope that what goes around comes around and that something not so pleasant will be at the end—in store for him at the end of the day if he did this and he does get off. 

NORVILLE:  And what would Kay Scarpetta do if she were investigating this case? 

CORNWELL:  She would have found more evidence, I promise.

(LAUGHTER)

NORVILLE:  Patricia Cornwell, it‘s always fun to have you on the show.  The book is called “Trace.”  It‘s No. 1 on “The New York Times” best-seller list. 

CORNWELL:  Thank you.  Always good to see you. 

NORVILLE:  Good to have you.

When we come back, it‘s your chance to weigh in on the scary topic we were speaking about on Friday night, America a possible target for a nuclear terror attack?  We‘ll share what you thought in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NORVILLE:  We‘ve gotten tons of e-mails about our show about last Friday about the threat of nuclear terror, a threat that was raised in a new documentary that showed potential dangers at the Indian Point Power Plant near New York City. 

J.T. from Long Island, New York, writes in: “Kudos for exposing the worst terrorist threat in America, yet the most preventable.”

But Mel Shapiro from Calabasas, California, writes to say, if terrorists want to do real damage real easy, just use a simple truck bomb in any busy downtown area.  Look what McVeigh did.  All no-fly zones are just window dressing to make one feel good, but are worthless.”

Susan writes in and says: “I also recently watched the documentary about Indian Point, but the one that affected me far more was ‘Chernobyl Heart.‘  Regardless of the threat of an attack to a nuclear facility, we need to become much more aware again of what happens when just one nuclear accident happens.  And ‘Chernobyl Heart‘ begins to explore those effects.”

And Stephen Skwire just likes the show.  He says: “At this point, I think your show stands head and shoulders above any comparable offerings on network or cable.” 

Cool.

You can send us your ideas and comments to us at NORVILLE@MSNBC.com.  We‘ve got some of them posted on our Web page.  That address is NORVILLE.MSNBC.com, which is where you can sign up for our newsletter. 

And that is our program for tonight.  I‘m Deborah Norville.  Thanks for watching. 

Coming up tomorrow night, held hostage in Iraq.  It happens with increasing frequency.  And tomorrow night, two people kidnapped by insurgents loyal to terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the man believed to be responsible for several beheadings of hostages in the Middle East, will be joining us.  They‘ll join me for their first television interviews, in which they will talk about their ordeal.  They‘ll tell us what it was like to be held hostage, what it was like facing what they thought was certain death, and then the incredible circumstances around their release. 

And then we‘ll look ahead as well to the presidential debates, as George Bush and John Kerry get set for their first debate to take place Thursday night.  We‘ll look ahead to what they have got to do to change some minds and change the minds of the undecideds.  All that coming up tomorrow night.

Coming up next, Joe Scarborough asks CBS critic Bernie Goldberg what he thinks CBS News ought to do now.  “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY” next.

END   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2004 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2004 FDCH e-Media, Inc. (f/k/a/ Federal Document Clearing House Inc., eMediaMillWorks, Inc.), ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and FDCH e-Media, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,