1:58 p.m., PDT: REDWOOD CITY - Scott Peterson’s boat was stable, a prosecution expert testified today, but the model was not tested to see if it would capsize if a man threw his pregnant wife’s body overboard.
“The boat may be more sensitive than larger boats, but it is a very safe boat,” said David Weber, whose Missouri company makes 14-foot aluminum Gamefisher boats like the one Peterson bought two weeks before his wife disappeared.
Prosecutors flew Weber to California to counter a defense claim that Peterson’s boat would have tipped if he pushed out a 153-pound body attached to concrete weights. Weber said the boat was rated to carry four people or 500 pounds, with a maximum rating of 680 pounds including gear and the motor.
But legal experts observing the trial say defense attorney Mark Geragos effectively nullified Weber’s value to the prosecution when the engineer acknowledged that his company’s watercraft testing did not approximate prosecutors’ theory.
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Today’s courtroom session started 1 hour 45 minutes later than usual to allow for a jury field trip. The 12 jurors and five alternates were escorted through an underground tunnel leading from the courthouse basement to a secure location nearby where they viewed Peterson’s boat.
Officers transported Peterson to the site in a van. The public and media were prevented from observing any of the session.
Prosecutors believe the 31-year-old agricultural products salesman murdered his wife and unborn son, Conner, and used a fishing trip as a cover to dump her body from his new boat. The bodies of mother and son were recovered along the shore of San Francisco Bay four months later, less than two miles from where Peterson said he fished alone that day.
His attorneys say someone else kidnapped the woman and framed their client by putting her body in a place corresponding with his well-publicized alibi.
Peterson’s boat, model 1457, never was tested in salt water, Weber testified. Stability tests on the boat’s sides did not exceed 143 pounds, while Laci Peterson weighed 10 pounds more at a doctor’s appointment the day before Christmas Eve 2002, when she was reported missing. That doesn’t include concrete blocks or the weight of a man presumably disposing the body.
Safety tests focused on the boat’s ability to stay afloat when nearly filled with fresh water, Weber said - which has nothing to do with the Peterson case.
When questioned again by prosecutor Dave Harris, Weber said saltwater gives watercraft extra buoyancy - perhaps making a boat less likely to capsize.