Peterson’s mistress likely to take the stand

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She is the other woman everyone has been waiting to hear from. Other than two brief, highly controlled press conferences in 2003, Amber Frey has remained out of the public’s eye. She has never openly spoken about her love affair with Scott Peterson or her involvement in his investigation.

But that will soon change when she’s called to take the stand to testify at his murder trial.

The witness list remains sealed, but sources close to the case tell NBC that she’s scheduled to take the stand soon, perhaps as early as Tuesday.

Frey’s affair with Peterson is no secret. In late January 2003 she told a national audience, “Scott told me he was unmarried.” Speaking tentatively, with a slight shake in her voice, Frey went on to say, “When I discovered he was involved in the Laci Peterson disappearance case, I immediately contacted the Modesto Police Department.”

The importance of Frey’s testimony is also no secret. The prosecution has not been shy about building suspense around her upcoming testimony. Prosecutor Rick Distaso told the jury during opening statements that they would, in fact, hear from Peterson’s lover.

Distaso also told the jury that even after Laci disappeared, Peterson continued to call Frey and perpetuate a string of lies about his life — even calling Frey from his cell phone, on the night of a candlelight vigil for his missing wife.

‘Hail Mary pass’ for prosecution?
The prosecution contends Frey is part of Peterson’s motive for murder. They argue he grew tired of his life with Laci and was not ready, or ultimately willing, to embrace fatherhood.

“This is the ‘Hail Mary pass’ for the district attorney,” said Defense Attorney Michael Cardoza.

However, putting Frey on the stand is not without risk. “Amber comes with a lot of baggage, a lot of baggage,” Cardoza said. “She is going to be fodder for cross-examination from the defense.”

Dean Johnson, a former prosecutor in San Mateo County, said there may be a lot more to Frey’s past than meets the eye. And any revelations that come about as a result of her testimony could potentially hurt the prosecution.

“There are questions about whether she actually found out about Scott’s being married before Laci went missing,” Johnson said.

He also cited a relationship with a Fresno detective. The nature of that relationship is unclear, but it may complicate the prosecution’s case.

“Mark Geragos, I think, cannot wait to ask Ms. Frey where she was on December 23, 2002.”

Prosecutors have said they believe Peterson killed Laci at their home in Modesto either on the night of Dec. 23, or in the predawn hours of Christmas Eve. Then he dumped her body in the waters of the San Francisco Bay. Modesto police said Frey has been cleared of any involvement in Laci’s disappearance and murder.

Still Cardoza said the prosecution will have to tread lightly with how they present Frey’s past.

“(They) can’t portray Amber as some innocent little lamb that was led to slaughter by Scott Peterson. If (they) even begin to try that, it will open up cross-examination even more,” said Cardoza.

Conversations between Peterson and Frey
While Frey was helping with the police’s investigation, she agreed to record a number of her phone conversations with Peterson. Portions of those recorded conversations are expected to accompany her testimony.

One option if the prosecution wanted to avoid exposing Frey to an expected onslaught of tough questions from the defense would be to simply play the tapes and keep Frey off the stand. But Beth Karas, a correspondent with Court TV and a former prosecutor, said there is “no question” that the prosecution has to put her on the stand.

“There’s a month of a relationship that only she can tell the jury about,” Karas said. “Only she can tell the jury about the lies that he told her. About the dates they went on, the gifts he bought her and the double life he was leading.”

Johnson agreed that Frey should take the stand, but said “there are no star witnesses in this case.”

It’s unclear how many more witnesses will be called to testify after Frey. So far, more than 100 have taken the stand. The trial is now entering its 11th week. If convicted on two counts of first-degree murder, Peterson could be sentenced to life in prison or given the death penalty.