Scott Peterson, convicted in Modesto’s most notorious double-murder, breaks his long silence with interviews from death row in a six-episode documentary premiering Aug. 15 on TV’s A&E Network.
The series also features Scott Peterson’s family and attorneys, while evoking the victim’s memory in its title: “The Murder of Laci Peterson.”
The substitute teacher from Modesto was eight months pregnant with her first child, to be named Conner, when she vanished just before Christmas 2002. Their bodies washed ashore four months later; her husband was sentenced after a blockbuster 2004 trial and, now 44, awaits appeals.
Also appearing in the show are Amber Frey, Scott’s paramour and key prosecution witness, as well as former Modesto police detectives Jon Buehler and Ed Steele and several print and broadcast reporters who covered the case, including The Modesto Bee’s Garth Stapley. Some of the documentary focuses on how news can influence criminal justice.
“The media’s obsession with the Scott Peterson trial was unlike anything seen before,” Elaine Frontain Bryant, an A&E executive vice president, said in a release. “This new series will cut through the mass hysteria that has plagued and distorted the reporting of this story to deliver, for the first time, a definitive factual account by those who lived and breathed it every day.”
Other contributors include TV host Nancy Grace, TV reporters Ted Rowlands and Gloria Gomez, legal commentator Chris Pixley, magazine writer Maureen Orth, and Ken Auletta, a media critic for The New Yorker.
A&E is in the business of finding and uncovering the real stories behind some of the most impactful cultural moments that our audience hasn’t heard, and `The Murder of Laci Peterson’ does exactly that.
Elaine Frontain Bryant, A&E Network executive vice president and head of programming
More than 800 journalists were credentialed to cover the trial, which moved from Modesto to the Bay Area to escape media saturation. Cable channels produced thousands of hours of around-the-clock coverage as intrigue spread across the United States and beyond.
When the “guilty” verdict was announced in November 2004, thousands cheered outside the courthouse in Redwood City.
“Scott Peterson’s conviction was less a tribute to the efficacy of the legal system than it was a case study for the overwhelming power of modern media to deliver the facts of news in a way that creates irresistible tabloid fodder,” says A&E’s release.
The case spawned some two dozen books, including best sellers by Laci’s mother, Sharon Rocha of Modesto, and another by Frey. Her activist attorney, Gloria Allred, penned her own book and will appear on “The Murder of Laci Peterson.”
Dramatic shows based on the Peterson story abounded, including a made-for-TV movie that came out even before the trial. Interest seemed to wane for a few years, but the story has shown a resurgence with REELZ’ “Murder Made Me Famous” in 2015, a two-hour “Dateline NBC” special in April and Oxygen’s “Snapped” in May. Scott Peterson’s family cooperated on a full-length documentary shown at a film festival last year, but it apparently was not picked up by a film distributor.
The upcoming A&E series was produced by Left/Right and BQE Films. A&E aims to “lead the cultural conversation through high-quality, thought-provoking original programming with a unique point of view,” the release says.
Garth Stapley: 209-578-2390