Video: Peterson’s defense rests

updated 10/26/2004 4:18:10 PM ET 2004-10-26T20:18:10

Scott Peterson’s defense lawyers rested their case Tuesday without calling him to the stand, taking a fraction of the time spent in the prosecution phase.

Judge Alfred A. Delucchi told jurors the prosecution would call eight rebuttal witnesses Wednesday. After any defense rebuttal to that, the court will be off until Monday, when closing arguments are set to begin.

The jury should get the case by Nov. 3, Delucchi said.

Peterson is charged with two counts of murder in the death of his pregnant wife, Laci, who disappeared in December 2002, and the fetus she carried. He could face the death penalty if convicted.

The defense phase wrapped up in its sixth day with the prosecution’s cross-examination of Modesto Police Officer Michael Hicks, who had also been on the stand Monday. In all, the defense called just 14 witnesses, some of whom had been called previously by the prosecution.

Prosecutors allege Peterson killed his eight-months-pregnant wife in their Modesto home on or around Dec. 24, 2002, then dumped her body into San Francisco Bay. Defense lawyers maintain someone else abducted and killed Laci.

Peterson was arrested in April 2003, soon after the remains of Laci and her fetus washed ashore not far from where Peterson said he had been fishing the day his wife vanished.

Prosecution calls 174 witnesses
Prosecutors had rested their case on Oct. 5, presenting 174 witnesses over 19 weeks, including Peterson’s former mistress Amber Frey. Jurors heard two dozen calls between Peterson and Frey recorded between late December 2002 and February 2003.

On Monday, defense lawyers used Hicks, the final witness, to imply that burglars who robbed a Peterson neighbor’s home around the time Laci Peterson vanished may have been involved in her death. Hicks had interviewed one of the suspects.

The defense also called on Peterson’s parents to help explain away behavior police have described as that of a guilty man.

Peterson’s mother, Jackie Peterson, gave testimony to explain why Peterson had nearly $15,000 in cash on him when he was arrested. She said she had withdrawn $10,000 in cash from the bank to lend to another son, but the money had accidentally been withdrawn from Scott Peterson’s own account, on which her name also appeared. She said she returned it to Scott the day before his arrest.

Among the defense witnesses called over the past week was Dr. Charles March, who came under heavy attack from prosecutors when he testified that the fetus probably died on Dec. 29, 2002, at the earliest. That would be several days after prosecutors said Laci Peterson was killed.

Defense was ‘disappointment,’ trial watcher says
Under cross-examination, March acknowledged his conclusion was based in part on the inference that if Laci informed a friend of her pregnancy on June 9 of that year, as testimony had indicated, she had likely learned the news that same day through a home pregnancy test. He admitted there was no medical record of such a test on that date.

“The defense case was a huge disappointment,” said trial watcher and former prosecutor Dean Johnson. “None of the promises made by (defense lawyer) Mark Geragos during opening statements have been fulfilled.

“He promised to show the baby was born alive and there’s been no evidence of that,” Johnson added. “He promised to show that Peterson was stone cold innocent and he hasn’t done that, so this is now a case that’s going to come down to reasonable doubt.”

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