1:23 p.m., PDT: REDWOOD CITY - Scott Peterson had nothing to do with his pregnant wife’s murder - and his legal team will prove it, defense attorney Mark Geragos declared dramatically this morning during his opening statement.
“The evidence is going to show clearly, beyond any doubt, that not only was Scott not guilty, but stone-cold innocent,” Geragos told jurors.
Peterson, 31, of Modesto, came under media and police scrutiny after Laci Peterson vanished Dec. 24, 2002. But Peterson had no opportunity to kill her and their unborn son, Conner, Geragos said.
Evidence will show the baby was born alive, the Los Angeles lawyer announced in a series of revelations. They include:
Laci Peterson knew that her husband bought a fishing boat shortly before she vanished - and “was in the boat Dec. 20.”
The Petersons didn’t talk about the boat, even during a fishing discussion with her mother and stepfather six days after the purchase, because they hoped to surprise her stepfather - and avid fisherman - with the news at a holiday celebration.
Amy Rocha told police that pants recovered on her sister’s remains were not those Laci Peterson wore Dec. 23, 2002 - the night authorities believe she might have been slain.
Five witnesses will testify that they saw Laci Peterson walking her dog Christmas Eve in the La Loma neighborhood where the couple lived.
Four of their stories have not surfaced in news reports. They include a man driving a truck who said he saw her cross the street to avoid two “street or homeless people.”
As Geragos displayed autopsy photographs, the victims’ father and grandfather, Dennis Rocha, quietly left the courtroom. His ex-wife, Sharon Rocha, and two other family members followed.
As expected, Geragos alternately attacked and mocked officers’ investigation into the disappearance. He said a detective’s account of dropping a hair into an evidence envelope without manipulating the hair doesn’t make sense. Police later said they found two hairs in the envelope.
Also, police caused a red paint scrape on Peterson’s boat when it came into contact with a red hand-truck in an official storage area - before detectives determined that the paint didn’t match a red buoy in San Francisco Bay, Geragos said.
Authorities had hoped to suggest that Peterson tied his 14-foot aluminum boat to the buoy to keep it from tipping as he dumped his wife’s weighted body, Geragos said.
Also, a dog hair found in the boat might have come from a police dog, Geragos said.
James Hammer, a former San Francisco prosecutor, compared questions about Conner’s gestational age and possible birth to the bloody glove in O.J. Simpson’s double-murder trial. That key piece of evidence helped persuade jurors he was not guilty.
If Geragos convinces the jury of six women and six men that the boy had developed beyond 32 weeks, “you can say hasta la vista to the prosecution,” Hammer said during an interview.
As for the five people who claim Laci Peterson sightings, “If the jury believes just one, Scott Peterson walks out of this courthouse a free man,” Hammer said. “As a DA, I would be terrified.”
The defendant’s mother, Jackie Peterson, smiled outside the courtroom. Of Geragos’ performance, she said: “It’s nice to hear some truth. Give (Geragos) a 10. He IS a 10.”
Testimony is scheduled to begin this afternoon with the prosecution’s first witness, Peterson house cleaner Margarita Nava.