Peterson: Moving Toward Trial

January 8, 2004

Distaso attacks defense motion

Prosecutors Wednesday countered a defense effort to dismiss double-murder charges against Scott Peterson.

They argued that there was only one reasonable explanation for the bodies of his wife and unborn son washing ashore along San Francisco Bay:

"The evidence leads only to the conclusion that Laci was killed at the hands of another (the defendant)," Deputy District Attorney Rick Distaso wrote in documents filed in Stanislaus County Superior Court.

The defense contends prosecutors failed to show at a November 2003 preliminary hearing that Laci Peterson's death involved a crime or provide evidence Scott Peterson killed her.

Peterson was ordered held for trial on charges he murdered his wife and their unborn son, Conner, following the 12-day hearing. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Prosecutors need only establish probable cause -- a low threshold of proof -- at the preliminary hearing.

Legal observers have said the defense motion has little chance of success. A hearing on it is set for Wednesday.

The defense maintains prosecutors failed to establish that Laci Peterson's death was a homicide. Her nearly skeletal remains were found in April 2003. A medical examiner listed the manner of death as a homicide but was unable to determine the cause of death.

Prosecutors contend there are three possible explanations for how Laci and Conner Peterson's bodies found their way to San Francisco Bay: foul play, an accident or suicide.

"The second two 'possibilities' are ludicrous," Distaso wrote in the recently filed documents.

He also countered that there was no legal requirement to show the cause of death to prove a murder had taken place.

"If that were the case, it would foreclose prosecution of any murder where the body was too decomposed to determine the cause of death," Distaso wrote. "It is well established that the prosecution does not even have to produce a body in order to successfully prosecute a murder."

According to the prosecution, testimony also showed Peterson lied about what he did the morning of Dec. 24, 2002 -- the day his wife was reported missing -- lied about what she was reportedly wearing at that time and lied about his affair.

Bee staff writer John Coté can be reached at 578-2394 or

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