Peterson Defense Rests

Scott Peterson and the scales of justice over a faded photo of Laci Peterson AP / CBS

Scott Peterson's lawyer wrapped up his case without calling his client to testify, instead relying on experts and family members to show why the former fertilizer salesman didn't kill his pregnant wife, Laci.

After the abrupt end of the defense case, Scott Peterson's family left the courtroom expressing confidence, reports CBS News Correspondent John Blackstone.

Asked if he felt good about the job done by the defense attorneys, brother John Peterson replied, "Absolutely, and the truth will set Scott free."

Mark Geragos questioned the last of 14 witnesses Tuesday, the sixth day of testimony for the defense.

But Geragos did not fulfill his opening-arguments pledge to prove that Peterson did not kill his pregnant wife Laci.

"Mark Geragos made some promises in his opening statement — the baby was born alive. Not one wit of evidence about that. He would turn this into an eyewitness case. We have not heard testimony from one single eyewitness," said criminal defense attorney Dean Johnson.

If the fetus were born alive, given Laci's Feb. 10 expected due date and the intense media coverage and police surveillance of Peterson after she vanished, he couldn't have killed her, Geragos said.

Geragos also had promised jurors would see "zip, nada, nothing" from the prosecution's case that directly implicated his client. Geragos also highlighted the lack of physical evidence — no murder weapon, no bloody crime scene, no cause or time of death and no direct witnesses to the killing.

Over 19 weeks, the state put 174 witnesses on the stand to prove Peterson should be convicted of two counts of murder, one each for Laci and the fetus she carried. If convicted, Peterson faces the death penalty or life without parole.

Prosecutors were to begin their rebuttal mid-day Wednesday. The defense then gets a rebuttal. Both sides are expected to wrap up by week's end.

Closing arguments are scheduled to begin Monday, and legal observers say the outcome could hinge on those arguments. Jurors should get the case by Nov. 3, and will be sequestered for deliberations. They have been allowed to live at home during the five-month trial.

Geragos had scheduled two more witnesses but ended after lengthy hearings in the judge's chambers, reports Blackstone.

"We heard a lot of talks about a demonstration video that the defense did of trying to toss a body or weights like a body overboard," said former prosecutor Jim Hammer. "I suspect the judge kept that out of evidence."

The final defense witness was Modesto Police Officer Michael Hicks. Geragos asked him about the possibility that burglars who robbed a neighbor's home about the time Laci vanished — on or around Dec. 24, 2002 — could have been responsible for the slayings.

Hicks interviewed one of the suspects who admitted to the burglary but waffled on the date it occurred, first telling police it occurred on Dec. 27, 2002, and later acknowledging it had happened a day earlier. Geragos suggested the man couldn't be trusted.

The defense has maintained that Laci was abducted and killed by her captors. The remains of Laci and her fetus washed ashore mid-April 2003, a few miles from where Peterson claims to have been fishing alone the day his wife disappeared from their home in Modesto.

Prosecutors portrayed Peterson as a lying cheat, showing a man who would mislead friends and family even as the search for his wife continued, so he could romance his lover, massage therapist Amber Frey.

But Geragos countered that Peterson would never murder his wife to be with a woman he had only gone out with a few times, even telling jurors of two previous affairs.

Geragos did not attack Frey. Her attorney and Geragos critic Gloria Allred was delighted by the defense's quick end.

"Mark Geragos indicated that he would prove that Scott Peterson was stone, cold innocent. I think that all he really proved is that Scott Peterson is stone cold," she said.
  • Lloyd Vries

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