'Slam dunk' remark lives on

June 24, 2003 

FROM NBC NEWS INTERVIEW, APRIL 18

State Attorney General Bill Lockyer:

There's a very, very compelling case that this helps to nail down. I think, one, it's going to result in a conviction.

Offscreen voice:

If you were the prosecutor on this case, Mr. Lockyer, how would you feel about your chances of winning it today?

Lockyer:

Slam dunk.

One of the more intriguing, controversial quotes to emerge from the Peterson double-homicide case was uttered in a moment of confusion, Cali-fornia Attorney General Bill Lockyer suggested in a recent interview at The Bee.

Lockyer's "slam dunk" comment to reporters the day Scott Peterson was arrested has been repeated and dissected countless times by legal analysts, newspaper columnists and television commentators.

Some questioned whether Lockyer violated legal ethics by commenting on the strength of evidence in the high-profile case.

"This is a compellingly strong case. I would call the odds slam-dunk that he is going to be convicted," Lockyer is quoted as saying in a Contra Costa Times article, published April 19.

That was the day following Scott Peterson's arrest for the slayings of his wife, Laci, and their unborn son, Conner. He has pleaded not guilty and faces the death penalty if convicted.

Lockyer later insisted that he was speaking only about DNA evidence identifying bodies recovered from the San Francisco Bay shoreline a few days before as those of Laci and Conner Peterson.

Stanislaus County District Attorney James Brazelton, who attended a press conference that day with Lockyer, backed up the attorney general's version in a subsequent televised interview.

At The Bee last week, Lockyer hesitated because of a court-imposed gag order before deciding to clarify.

"The question I thought I was asked is, is the DNA stuff reliable?" Lockyer said. He said a reporter mentioned evidence allegedly planted in the famed O.J. Simpson double-homicide case, where wobbly interpretations of DNA evidence contributed to acquittal.

"My comment," Lockyer recalled, "was that DNA is reliable by factors of billions-to-1. It was an absolute slam dunk that no defense lawyer can refute that these are the bodies of Laci and Conner."

The April 18 comment made the rounds of all sorts of media and was included in a potential juror survey sponsored by California State University, Stanislaus.

Time magazine quoted Scott Peterson's mother, Jackie Peterson, as saying, "You have (Lock-yer) calling this a slam dunk before there's even an arraignment. I'm feeling like I'm living in Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union."

Lockyer said he couldn't have commented on the prosecution's case because he hadn't reviewed it. He still hasn't, he said Wednesday.

"I don't know the evidence," Lockyer said. But his comment, he acknowledged, "has taken on a life of its own."

Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at 578-2390 or gstapley@modbee.com.

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