Mock Jury Weighs Peterson Evidence

Tune In To <b>48 Hours</b> And Find Out Its Verdict

Amber Frey's father, Ron, tells CBS News that for four weeks, Scott Peterson "was the greatest thing that ever happened" in his daughter's life.

Contributor Maureen Maher and correspondents Erin Moriarty and Troy Roberts report on the trial and a special mock jury that 48 Hours assembled for a 48 Hours Mystery: "On the Verge of a Verdict."

Maher witnessed Frey's courtroom testimony and spoke to her lawyer, Gloria Allred, about how Frey now feels about Peterson, who is accused of killing his pregnant wife and dumping her body at sea. Allred tells her, "I think her feelings about Scott Peterson are very complicated." Frey, Peterson's former mistress, testified against him.

Also, Maher speaks to Frey's father and to Dean Hoffinger, Frey's longtime friend, who reveals the hardships that Frey has overcome in her life. Hoffinger tells Maher, "Amber is 100 percent a survivor. That's her nature. Her whole childhood through everything I know about Amber...she is a survivor."

In an experiment to see how the Peterson jury might vote, a 48 Hours Mystery asked a leading jury consulting company to put together a mock jury that closely resembles the jurors hearing the Peterson case. Presented with actual prosecution and defense arguments and the same evidence, including the secretly recorded Scott-and-Amber conversations, the mock jury comes to its own verdict. Correspondent Roberts reports.

Correspondent Moriarty reports from Redwood City, Calif., on the eve of prosecution and defense closing arguments. She spoke to defense attorney Michael Cardoza, before a judge ordered him not to talk about the case, and to former prosecutor Dean Johnson. Both men, who have been at the trial from the beginning, examined the evidence and offered their opinions as to what it all means for the jury. Cardoza was brought onto the defense team to help determine if Scott Peterson should take the stand.

Next week, both the prosecution and the defense in the Scott Peterson murder trial will have one last chance to make their cases. Everything rides on these closing arguments, reports Moriarity.

"This jury more than anything else right now is hungry," says former prosecutor Dean Johnson, who has sat in on the trial from the beginning. "They are hungry for an explanation, they are desperate for somebody to wrap this up, to put a storyline around all of this evidence. Whichever side is successful in doing that is almost surely going to win this case."

So far, says Johnson, the defense is surprisingly underwhelming. After promising to prove Scott Peterson's innocence in the Christmas Eve murder of his pregnant wife, defense attorneys surprised everyone earlier this week by suddenly resting their case, with no bombshells, no stunning revelations.
What prosecutors did do was to make much of the lack of physical evidence – no obvious crime scene, no murder weapon.

"They've done a great deal to raise doubt," says Johnson. "They've done it through prosecution witnesses, even bringing out point after point that was favorable to the defense from the prosecution's own witnesses - their own investigators, their own experts - and the prosecution has not been able to respond."

For example:

  • People's Exhibit No. 69 - Peterson's boat, a 14-foot gamefisher bought for $1,400 in cash just two weeks before Laci went missing. Prosecutors say Scott kept the boat a secret; the defense says Laci knew about the boat.

  • People's exhibit No. 120A - Laci's hair in a pair of pliers in the boat. The defense says there's no mystery here. Again, they say Laci was around Peterson's boat.

  • People's exhibit No. 122 - Prosecutors say photos that show Peterson made a number of concrete anchors to ensure Laci's body would sink to the bottom of the bay. One was found in Peterson's warehouse, but none were found in the bay despite months of extensive searching. "They found beer cans and a quarter," says defense attorney Michael Cardoza, "and they couldn't find an anchor?" Cardoza helped the defense prepare Peterson for the possibility of taking the stand just two weeks ago. He spoke to 48 Hours before the judge ordered him to stop giving interviews.

  • People's exhibit No. 79 - Peterson's two-day fishing license. A receipt shows it was purchased well before he made the "spur-of-the-moment decision" to go fishing on Christmas Eve. But the defense says getting the license beforehand proves nothing, that Peterson picked it up when buying fishing lures.

  • People's exhibit No. 276 - The photo of Peterson just before his arrest, hair dyed blond. The prosecution says he was planning to run for the Mexican border with $15,000 in cash and a car loaded with camping gear. The defense explanation? Peterson was playing golf that day. His new look was simply a way to avoid media attention.

Perhaps the most damage the defense inflicted was after the jury heard how a police dog found Laci's scent at the Berkeley Marina, roughly 90 miles from the Peterson home.

"Boy, did that blow up in their ( the prosecution's) face, didn't it? I mean, my Lord, here comes the witness saying, you know, I thought Rin Tin Tin was gonna take the stand," says Cardoza. "Here comes Trimble, the wonder dog. What happened?"

What happened is that the defense discovered a video showing Trimble failing a tracking test.

And then there's Peterson's own words and actions that prosecutors say show his guilt. Although Peterson ultimately chose not to take the stand at his trial, jurors heard him lie repeatedly in phone conversations with relatives, friends and especially with his mistress, Amber Frey.

"At the end of Amber Frey's testimony, the jury hated Scott Petersen," former prosecutor Johnson.

The jury is also sure to wonder why Peterson sold his wife's car shortly after she disappeared and tried to sell their home. And why, as seen in police videos, Peterson turned his baby's nursery into a storage room.

And there are baffling interviews Peterson gave to the media while his wife was still missing and before he was arrested. In one television interview, he said he had told police about his affair with Frey on the very first day. But police show that Peterson had in fact denied the affair to them.

There's one fact that the defense can't dispute: that nearly four months after Laci disappeared from her home, her badly decomposed body came to shore less than two miles from where her husband said he had gone fishing the day she disappeared.

"He was fishing near Brooks Island and the bodies ended up two miles away. That is the most damaging evidence against Scott Peterson," admits Cardoza.

Peterson claimed he was fishing for sturgeon in the area, but Captain Jim Smith, who runs a charter fishing boat out of the Berkeley Marina, where Peterson launched his aluminum boat on Dec. 24, 2002, says that idea is just plain "nutty."

"This is the big, open bay, Smith says. "You get a lot of wind, a lot of heavy current here. It's just no place you would be sturgeon fishing. I couldn't catch a sturgeon here."

Brooks Island, where Peterson claims he went fishing, is roughly two miles from the Berkeley Marina, where Peterson kept his boat, and a little less than a mile from Point Isabel, where the bodies of Peterson and her son, Connor, were found.

Peterson claims he was framed. Laci was abducted and held for a period of time. The kidnappers killed her and dumped her body into the Bay from another point, like the San Rafael Bridge, after they heard where Peterson had been fishing.

"My opinion is if, if you dump the body off here (San Rafael Bridge) it would probably end up out in the ocean," says Smith.

Tidal charts support his claim, showing that underneath the bridge, the bay current is strong and steady and pushes out to the ocean, and not toward Point Isabel, where Peterson was fishing and the bodies washed up.

NEXT: The Amber Connection
  • Mary-Jayne McKay

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