Ex-Peterson PI trying to contact jurors

He claims to have new leads; panelists say they'll ignore him

04/07/2007 7:20 AM

11/20/2007 8:03 AM

A New York private investigator convicted of impersonating a police officer in Modesto's best-known murder case confirmed Friday that he's trying to contact jurors who sentenced Scott Peterson to death.

Scott Bernstein followed his August 2005 felony conviction in Modesto with guilty pleas to two similar misdemeanor counts in New York. His license remains under review, a New York Department of State spokesman said.

"I'm not looking to dig up some old ground here," Bernstein said in a telephone interview, referring to his March 22 letter to Peterson jurors. "I just want to ask some unresolved questions."

Bernstein's letter says he has "turned up promising leads and new evidence for this case" and asks for jurors' "insight, as your direct involvement makes you an invaluable resource."

He refused Friday to discuss the claims.

Seven of the jurors jointly wrote a book released Jan. 1 about Peterson's 2004 blockbuster trial for the murders of his pregnant wife, Laci, and their unborn son, Conner.

A juror provided The Bee with a copy of Bernstein's letter, but jurors declined to comment for fear of violating a no-interview agreement with book publicists.

Some jurors, asking not to be identified, said they agreed among themselves to ignore Bernstein. Most of the jurors periodically meet and exchange calls and e-mails.

"Here's a gentleman arrested numerous times for impersonating a police office and possession of cocaine, and he wants me to talk to him?" one juror said. "The words 'credibility' and 'felon' don't necessarily go simultaneously down the road."

Citing massive publicity around Modesto, a judge had moved Peterson's trial to Redwood City. Jurors came from San Mateo County, though at least three since have moved to other states.

"My fear is (Bernstein) showing up on my doorstep and being aggressive," another juror said Friday. "It sounds like he could go over the edge."

Hired by Court TV in early 2004, Bernstein showed a badge while snooping around Modesto. He interviewed several potential witnesses and finessed 12 booking photos, which never should have been released, from the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department.

Authorities arrested Bernstein after he showed the photos on national cable television. A few months later, he used flashlights and a siren while chasing down two drivers in New York, and he blocked another with his vehicle in what police called a road-rage incident.

He struck plea bargains in both states and was convicted of a felony in Modesto and three misdemeanors in New York.

New York authorities tried to have Bernstein's private investigator license revoked. An administrative law judge found Bernstein's testimony "less than fully credible" and said he demonstrated a pattern of "deceit and misrepresentation," but opted to fine him $5,000.

No law compels jurors to discuss trial experiences with anyone.

Describing himself as "genuine and honest," Bernstein told The Bee that the Modesto case against him was "manufactured." He refused to name who he is working for in his current Peterson effort, but cited previous work for CNN, MSNBC, CNBC and Fox.

"My colleagues, friends and associates know my professionalism and respect it," Bernstein said.

To comment, click on the link with this story at www.modbee.com. Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at gstapley@modbee.com or 578-2390.

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