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Peterson defense chips away at prosecution

Scott Peterson’s lawyers pounded away Wednesday at their contention that police narrowly focused on their client while ignoring other possible leads in the murder case.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Scott Peterson’s lawyers pounded away Wednesday at their contention that police narrowly focused on their client while ignoring other possible leads in the murder case.

Defense lawyer Mark Geragos spent his fourth day cross-examining Modesto police Detective Craig Grogan and pointing out how police failed to follow up on a number of reported sightings of Laci Peterson the day she vanished.

Geragos on Tuesday mentioned four calls to the police tip hot line within days of Laci’s disappearance — one from a man who said he saw a woman who looked like Laci “being forced into a van, correct?” Geragos asked the detective.

“Yes,” Grogan replied.

Geragos returned to the same line of questioning Wednesday regarding the tipster.

“He commented specifically that there was that look on her face, remember? ... How did he describe her look?” Geragos asked. “A scared look on the face?”

“Yes,” Grogan said.

Prosecutors allege Peterson killed Laci in their Modesto home on or around Dec. 24, 2002, then dumped her body into San Francisco Bay. Her badly decomposed remains — and that of her fetus — washed up in April 2003, not far from where Peterson launched his boat that morning for what he claims was a solo fishing trip.

Defense lawyers maintain someone else abducted and killed Laci while she walked the couple’s dog.

As Geragos prepared to conclude his questioning of Grogan, he offered reasonable explanations for some of Peterson’s behavior that police deemed suspicious, and noted an alleged lie by police in an affidavit for a search warrant.

Grogan acknowledged that Peterson told authorities he was fishing for sturgeon the morning Laci vanished and that he used freshwater gear because he had accidentally left behind his saltwater tackle. Grogan has said that the freshwater gear was one of the things that led them to question Peterson’s story.

Geragos also said police included in a Jan. 20, 2003, affidavit for a wiretap of Peterson’ phones a comment that authorities were preparing to arrest Peterson at the time. Grogan said there were no such plans then.

Geragos also brought up a burglary that occurred across the street from the Petersons’ home.

Grogan said a witness told him she saw several men that Christmas Eve morning loading a safe into a van parked in front of that home. Grogan said police posted a reward seeking information about the van and the suspects, and later even investigated the possibility that the incident may have been linked to Laci’s disappearance.

The woman whose home was robbed testified previously that she and her husband left their home on Dec. 24 around midday. When they returned, their home had been burglarized.

Defense lawyers have hinted the burglars may have been involved in Laci’s disappearance, but prosecutors contend that would have been impossible given that the Petersons’ dog was found wandering alone in the street before the couple left their home, indicating Laci met her demise before the break-in.

Police also testified previously that they recovered much of the stolen property, arrested two men in the case and ruled out any connection to Laci’s disappearance.

Geragos then moved to another point.

Defense lawyers have argued it would have been nearly impossible for Peterson to have dumped his wife’s weighted body from his small boat without tipping it.

Grogan acknowledged Wednesday police discussed doing an experiment to see if it would be possible but later scrapped the idea.