November 3, 2004 in Nation/World

Lawyer: Hate, don’t convict

Louis Sahagun Los Angeles Times
 
Associated Press photo

Scott Peterson listens at the beginning of the defense closing arguments Tuesday in Redwood City, Calif.
(Full-size photo)

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. – A defense attorney in Scott Peterson’s murder trial began his closing remarks Tuesday by telling jurors that although they may loath his client they should not presume that he is guilty of killing his pregnant wife.

In closing arguments Tuesday, attorney Mark Geragos accused homicide investigators and prosecutors of tailoring facts and suspicions to fit their theory: that Peterson masterminded a plot to free himself from his wife and live out a fantasy of being a playboy.

“If you hate him, then maybe what (prosecutors) are asking you to do is just convict (him) … don’t bother with five months of evidence,” Geragos said. “Don’t bother with the fact that the evidence clearly shows that he didn’t do this, and absolutely had no motive to do this.”

Prosecutors believe that the 32-year-old fertilizer salesman killed his wife to break free of a lousy job and dull marriage with a baby on the way. A month before Laci Peterson was reported missing, her husband started an affair with Amber Frey, a Fresno massage therapist, who later became a star prosecution witness.

Geragos blamed prosecutors for failing to thoroughly investigate the possibility that Laci Peterson had been kidnapped by someone else. He also speculated that she was killed “by more than one person.”

Geragos offered alternative explanations for circumstantial evidence that allegedly showed that Laci Peterson had been smothered or strangled on Dec. 23 or Christmas Eve of 2002, and then, attached to concrete weights that Scott Peterson had molded on a workbench, had been dumped into San Francisco Bay.

“They have this theory that if there is no evidence – no blood, poisoning, knife with blood on it – you’ve got to come up with the theory of a soft kill … suffocation or something like that,” Geragos told the jury. However, he added, “she didn’t struggle in that house, or die in that house because there is no evidence of it.”

If anything, he said, evidence such as a hair-curling iron on a bathroom counter and home computer records showing that someone had perused advertisements for brightly colored umbrellas indicated that Laci Peterson was alive on Christmas Eve.

“A reasonable interpretation is that she mopped the floor and went outside to take the dog for a walk,” Geragos said. “Laci Peterson was alive on the 24th and something happened to her when Scott left” their Modesto home to go fishing.

Geragos scoffed at the prosecution’s most damning contention, that Laci Peterson was dumped into the bay in the same location where her husband went fishing in a new boat on Christmas Eve. If Scott Peterson were the killer, Geragos said, he would have taken the corpse to one of several local lakes that are far deeper.

Geragos is expected to complete his final arguments today, after which prosecutor Rick Distaso will present his rebuttal.

The jury is expected to begin sequestered deliberations Thursday morning. Peterson is facing two counts of first-degree murder, and prosecutors are seeking the death penalty or life in prison without parole.

However, the jury also has the choice of convicting him on second-degree murder charges, which could result in two sentences of 15 years to life in prison.


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