Peterson: Preliminary Trial

October 31, 2003

For many media members DNA testimony very dull

It was a boring news day in "Camp Peterson." At least that was the buzz inside the white media tents lined up outside the Stanislaus County Courthouse.

But the shows still went on Thursday.

Hair was sprayed, then resprayed.

Anchors rehearsed 30-second takes in serious tones, while makeup artists powdered the personalities' faces.

Off camera, reporters complained that the second day of Scott Peterson's preliminary hearing felt like "DNA 101" all over again.

Defense attorney Mark Geragos spent most of the day grilling an FBI expert about the validity of mitochondrial DNA evidence. DNA tests were done on a strand of hair that was attached to a pair of pliers found under a seat in Peterson's boat.

"While they were going back and forth about DNA evidence, our eyes start to glaze over," TV reporter Robert Handa said after wrapping up the day's events in two sentences for the news on KTVU Channel 2 in the Bay Area. "But even though we're bored, we still have to focus, because this will be a key piece of evidence."

Other TV anchors were ready to write off the day as a waste of their time.

News anchor Miriam Hernandez of KGO Channel 7 out of San Francisco hurried back to her van, parked in a dirt lot, to edit her script.

"If Arnold's news conference goes too long, I may not even make air," said Hernandez, referring to Gov.-elect Schwarzenegger. "That means I've done all this work for nothing."

Still other media people embraced the slowness.

The ABC News crew just flew into Modesto after spending several sleepless nights chasing the Southern California wildfires. Producer Ronal Ellison said the crew is due back on the fire line Saturday.

"It's like a vacation," sound engineer Doug Lantz said with a smile. He said a comfy room at the DoubleTree Hotel beats staying awake wondering if your bed might catch on fire.

Camaraderie prevailed among the myriad TV crews along 11th Street.

"Ever since O.J., we kind of bonded," said Lantz, referring to the O.J. Simpson double-murder trial that drew massive coverage.

Modesto is starting to feel like familiar territory, Lantz said.

Many of the same journalists covered the Gary Condit-Chandra Levy story, and they have reunited for the Peterson trial.

Some shoulder cameras. Others, such as Samedy Khun, tirelessly run errands.

Khun, a film student at Modesto Junior College, was hired Wednesday after coming to the courthouse to document the media's impact on Modesto.

He worked for the media once before, but said he quit after one 14-hour stretch of "stalking" the Condit house. He was sick of the media, he said.

Now he is back in the mix, fetching food and drinks for the KCRA-TV Channel 3 news crew out of Sacramento. His friends with official "assistant" titles sometimes tease him.

But Khun seldom lacks a comeback.

"At least I'm not camping out in front of someone's house," Khun said, laughing.

Bee staff writer Julissa McKinnon can be reached at 578-2324 or

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