From the final brief in the habeas appeal:
As these two thumbnail sketches show, the jury had one question to resolve: was Laci alive when Scott left for the warehouse and Berkeley Marina? If so, then Scott was innocent. If not, then he was guilty.
If Laci is alive and walking McKenzi after Scott leaves for the warehouse, he is innocent.
If indeed “Laci witnessed him [Steve Todd] breaking in” then -- regardless of whether Todd is involved in Laci’s actual disappearance and murder -- Scott is innocent.
If Conner Peterson lived beyond December 24, Scott is innocent.
If just one of those things is true, Scott is innocent.
See the brief at ScottPetersonAppeal.org
Here are some photos I took at the Albany Bulb on a field trip with some friends. Notice the presence of the red algae, as Pin Kyo testified there was a red staining on Laci's clothes that might have been algae. Notice also the very large pipes, and also the one that has rocks in it that are the form of a body. Made us think it might have been a tribute to Laci. I personally think along the shores of the Albany Bulb is the most likely place Laci lodged for those 3 1/2 months. It was intertidal, allowing for successive barnacle settlements, as Laci had barnacles of varying sizes on her skeleton and her clothes. At the time of Laci's disappearance, the Bulb was inhabited by an ant-cop homeless population, who naturally would not dial 911 if they saw a body there and have their sanctuary invaded by media and police.
Fifteen years ago today, on January 2, 2003, the Modesto Police Department had a real opportunity to find Laci Peterson alive. Instead, by their actions, they guaranteed her demise. You may not recognize the name George Stough. He was the detective put in charge of the Medina burglary investigation after MPD received information from Diane Jackson that she had seen a white van and 3-dark skinned men in front of the Medina house on December 24, 2002 at 11:40 a.m. as she drove by. At that time, she saw a safe being removed from the house.
This is how George Stough solved the case:
1. He influenced Diane Jackson to change her initial description of the vehicle involved in the burglary, increasing the likelihood that the van would never be found.
When Stough first spoke to Diane Jackson at 6:30 p.m. on December 27, he did not accept her original description of the van as being white. He “asked the witness to attempt to remember back as she was driving by and see if she could visualize the van in her mind. At this point she said she thought darker, either a tan or a brown-colored van.” In the reward poster made public on January 1, 2003 the van was described as being tan or light brown.
2. He offered the burglars a deal.
On January 1, 2003, in a Modesto Bee article, George Stough offered the burglars a deal even though he didn’t know who they were, and he did know that they may have been involved in Laci’s disappearance.
He is quoted in the Modesto Bee: "If we got a call from the suspects saying that they saw something happening over there but they are afraid to come in, we might be able to work out a deal.”
3. He accepted the burglars’ version of events even though their stories were obviously false.
On January 2, Detective Stough spoke to an informant who had come forward to claim the $1000 reward for information on the burglary. Sometime after 6:00 p.m. Steve Todd and Donald Pearce were arrested. They claimed the burglary had occurred on December 27 until Stough clarified that they meant to say December 26.
On January 3 at 5:00 p.m., an MPD Press release stated: Todd and Pearce have both cooperated fully in the burglary investigation and police do not have any reason to believe they are connected to the disappearance of Laci Peterson. "We have been able to verify the truthfulness of their statements," said Detective George Stough.
No matter that Todd and Pearce didn’t fit the description of the men seen by Diane Jackson. Never mind that Diane Jackson saw the safe being removed from the house at 11:40 a.m. on December 24th. Stough was convinced that the burglars carried a large safe out the front door and onto the front lawn at Medina’s around 7 a.m. on December 26 even though news reporters and trucks were present in the neighborhood. (Ted Rowlands was right in front of the Medina’s house at that time.)In less than a week George Stough wrapped up the case. Simple.
However, Just to make sure that Diane Jackson would be unable to testify to the pesky details of what she saw on December 24th, Detective Stough arranged for her to be hypnotized on January 17 by an unqualified hypnotist.
End of story as far as the MPD was concerned. But definitely not the end of the story for those who believe Scott Peterson is innocent.
Here's a very interesting Podcast by Adam Corolla. Mark Geragos is the guest in the first half of the podcast.
Eye witness testimony is one of the 2 types of evidence that can be presented in a trial. The person tells what he or she witnessed and the jurors decide whether the witness is credible.
Eyewitness testimony can . . . be critiqued on several grounds: having impaired perception, having impaired memory, having an inconsistent testimony, having bias or prejudice, and not having a reputation for telling the truth. If any of those characteristics can be demonstrated, then the competency of a witness is questionable. (Eyewitness Testimony, Memory and Psychology)
"Mistaken or flawed identification has assumed a newfound prominence in recent years: It's been cited as a factor in nearly 78 percent of the nation's first 130 convictions later overturned by DNA testing" ("How reliable is eyewitness testimony?" American Psychological Association, April 2006, Vol. 37, No. 4
One of the problems affecting the credibility of an eye witness identification is visual impairment caused by distance. Geoffrey Loftus, PhD, a University of Washington perception and cognition psychology professor, "began seeking a way to visually present to juries the proposition that people's ability to decipher details degrades rapidly as a person or object moves further away. 'At 10 feet, you might not be able to see individual eyelashes on a person's face,' he says. 'At 200 feet, you would not even be able to see a person's eyes. At 500 feet, you could see the person's head but just one big blur. There is equivalence between size and blurriness-by making something smaller you lose the fine details'." ("How reliable is eyewitness testimony?", American Psychological Association, April 2006, Vol. 37, No. 4
Another problem with eye witness evidence is that the memory is not perfect. As Elizabeth Loftus describes in her book Memory: Surprising New Insights into How We Remember and Why We Forget
Memory is imperfect. This is because we often do not see things accurately in the first place. But even if we take in a reasonably accurate picture of some experience, it does not necessarily stay perfectly intact in memory. Another force is at work. The memory traces can actually undergo distortion. With the passage of time, with proper motivation, with the introduction of special kinds of interfering facts, the memory traces seem sometimes to change or become transformed. These distortions can be quite frightening, for they can cause us to have memories of things that never happened. Even in the most intelligent among us is memory thus malleable.
"Memory is not so much a static state as it is an ongoing process - and one which never happens in quite the same way twice. This is why we should have a skeptical, critical attitude towards all eyewitness testimony and all reports from memory - even our own and no matter what the subject, however mundane." (Eyewitness Testimony, Memory and Psychology
Eye witness testimony isn't just important to a State's case; sometimes defendants must rely heavily on it, too. Such is the case with Scott Peterson -- he relies on the credibility of several eye witnesses to confirm that Laci was still alive when he left for the warehouse on the morning of December 24, 2002. Many people simply dismiss those eye witnesses out of hand, citing the general unreliability of eye witnesses.
It is true that sincere people may have thought they saw Laci, but were mistaken and saw someone else. Or they may have thought they saw her on December 24, when in fact they saw her on another day. Certainly, they may have been affected by the public information that Laci was wearing a white top and black pants, but the Missing Persons posters didn't have Laci wearing a white top and black pants. These are the pictures as they appeared on the Missing Persons poster, and also as used by the media.
Dismissing all eye witness sightings because some are flawed is just ridiculous. There are six significant factors that significantly increase the credibility of the 7 eye witness sightings reported in the A&E docuseries.
First, Laci was not alone, she was with McKenzie. Laci wasn't just a woman walking, or a pregnant woman walking. She was a pregnant woman walking McKenzie, a golden retriever.
This photo of McKenzie is People's Exhibit no. 27A.
Second, she was very close to the person(s) who saw her. The Maldonado's, Tony Freitas, Frank and Martha Aguilar, and Gene Pedrioli all drove by Laci and McKenzie walking along the sidewalk. The Mitchell's saw Laci and McKenzie as they walked in front of their home. Chiavetta saw Laci and McKenzie in the park while he and his own dog were playing in the park. Campos was the furthest away from Laci and McKenzie, but she could see McKenzie well enough to notice the distinguishing white fur on his chest.
Third, there was something else that made the sighting more memorable. The Maldonado's saw McKenzie up on his hind legs and wondered if he might knock Laci over. Freitas also saw 2 scrubby looking men at the bus stop very near where Laci and McKenzie were walking. The Aguilar's thought it very foolish for Laci to not have on a coat. The Mitchells thought McKenzie wanted to go one way and Laci another. Campos saw and heard the 2 men that were harassing Laci. Chiavetta was paying much more attention to McKenzie because his own dog was off leash.
Fourth, the sightings collectively form a walk route for Laci and McKenzie. For a good visual of the walk route, please refer to Laci's Walk - The A&E Docuseries
, written by Jane Hamilton.
Fifth, none of these eye witnesses knew that the others had also seen Laci and McKenzie that morning along that route. They were not influenced by each other's account.
Sixth, while it was widely reported that Laci and McKenzie walked in the park, 5 of these 7 sightings were not in the park. The Campos sighting was in a different part of the park than where Laci was reported to have walked.
These are the women the Prosecution paraded before the jury to prove the eye witnesses were mistaken. I have links to both the testimonies and the maps/photos.
Wednesday, September 8, 2004
Prosecution Witness #133: Martin Dempewolf Testimony
Dempewolf's wife was 9 months pregnant on Dec. 24, '02, and she was walking her dog, a chocolate Lab, in the Dry Creek Park that day. He said she left between 9;15 and 9:30, and the walk took about 45-60 minutes. She walked through the subdivisions to La Loma, entered the park, walked through the park to the paved path, continued on Edgebrooke to Covena, down Covena to Encina and then home. Geragos reviewed the statements he gave to Bertalotto in Jan '04, indicating he couldn't specify the time she took the walk. And, in response to Geragos' last question, he replied: My wife has a good memory, I don't.
Prosecution Witness #134: Jordan Visola-Prescott, Pregnant Neighborhood Walker Testimony
Prosecution Witness #135: Elizabeth Guptill, Pregnant neighborhood walker Testimony
Prosecution Witness #136: Jill Lear, Pregnant Neighborhood walker Testimony
These three women were all pregnant on Dec 24, '02, lived in the La Loma neighborhood, and regularly took walks. Prescott could not say with certainty she walked the morning of the 24th, and the other two were certain they did not walk that morning. When Prescott did walk, she pulled her daughter along in a red wagon, and her dog is a lab mix. When Guptill walked, she often was pushing her son in a jogging stroller, and she didn't have a dog. Lear's dog was a Australian Shepherd, and she usually walked in the afternoons. Prescott was 2 1/2 months pregnant with twins, Guptill was 5 months pregnant, and Lear was 6 1/2 months pregnant on December 24, 2002.
Thursday, September 9, 2004
Prosecution Witness #137: Kim Westphal, Covena Walker Testimony
Westphal routinely walks a route that takes her from Edgebrooke down Covena to Encina, right past the Peterson home. She testified that she did take her walk on Dec 24 '02 and arrived at Covena about 10:50 am, and she did not see anything out of the ordinary. Westphal's testimony, however, didn't agree with what she told officers going door-to-door on the night of Dec. 24. She told them she couldn't be sure she walked down Covena that morning. Her testimony seemed to contradict what she told her neighbor and her mother about her activities on the morning of the 24th. Westphal walked with another woman, Dana Evans, who has not yet been called to testify.
Prosecution Witness #138: Patricia Mewhinney, Park Walker Testimony
Mewhinney testified that she walked her dog in the Park the morning of Dec. 24, from the tennis courts to the golf course and then back again. She said it was cold and damp that morning, and she wore a winter coat. She didn't see anything out of the ordinary in the park that day. She has long blond hair, and her dog is a black, part Lab and part German Shepherd. She arrived at home after her walk by 9:30.
Prosecution Witness #139: Brian Lee Testimony
Lee said he ran his usual run along the park's bike trail on the morning of Dec. 24, leaving his home at 10:00 am. He said he would have arrived at the Covena trail about 15 minutes later. The weather was cold, so he wore sweats instead of shorts, and he didn't see anyone on the bike trail. Geragos pointed out that his testimony disagreed with the information he gave when interviewed last summer. Then he told police he took his run sometime before noon, sometime between 10 and 11:30. He runs with a chocolate Lab.
Prosecution Witness #140: Joan Lee (wife of previous witness) Testimony
Dec 24 '02 Lee was 4-4.5 months pregnant. She walked with her husband and their dog in the evenings, and their walk took them past Vivian Mitchell's home. She was certain they walked on the evening of the 24th, but probably didn't from the 17th to the 14th. She was interviewed by Det. Grogan in June '03, and she told him she couldn't be certain how often she walked in December.
Prosecution Witness #141: Dianne Heaston Merenda, Park Walker Testimony
Blonde, with a golden retriever, she lived in the La Loma neighborhood. She would walk early morning, about 7 a.m., go down the Covena path into the park, walk to the pump house and back and exit the park using the paved Edgebrook path. The walk usually took her 20-30 minutes. She was certain she did not walk on the 24th, and she could not be sure how often she walked around that time frame. She was not pregnant on Dec. 24.
Prosecution Witness #142: Melba Martinez Testimony
Lives in La Loma neighborhood and has 2 golden retrievers. Her walk route included Covena from Edgebrook to Encina. Her usual walk time is 6:30-7:00 am, but she sometimes goes later and sometimes walks in the evenings. She walks only one dog at a time. She couldn't recall walking either the 23rd or the 24th.
Prosecution Witness #143: Amy Neumann, pregnant woman Testimony
Lives on Buena Vista. Did not walk on Dec. 24. Introduced to Laci when Laci was involved with making a traffic study video for the Encina Street project, which is separate from the Thousand Oaks Park and Trail project Laci was also involved in. Her dog is a poodle. She was pregnant at the time and under doctor's orders to rest with her feet up in the afternoons, and she would lay on the couch and watch the activity in front of her house. Her dog would bark when other people or dogs went by. She was not at home on Dec. 24 from 10 am to 1 pm.
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