Peterson: Trial Stories

Where are they now?

Kirk McAllister
Kirk McAllister Modesto Bee

There were many people who played roles big and small in the Peterson case. Here's an update on some involved with the prosecution and defense.


Rick Distaso

ROLE: Lead prosecutor with Dave Harris. Delivered shaky opening statement and, five months later, strong closing statement during trial's guilt phase.

AFTER TRIAL: Appointed by Gov. Schwarzenegger to Stanislaus County Superior Court judgeship in June 2005

QUOTE (from Court Executive Officer Michael Tozzi on Distaso's behalf): "The Code of Judicial Ethics says that a sitting judge is not allowed to comment on any case that is still active in the system, and the Peterson case is on appeal and therefore is still an active case."

Dave Harris

ROLE: Lead prosecutor with Distaso. Remembered for brilliant destruction of defense doctor during questioning and for engineering the trial's death penalty phase.

AFTER TRIAL: Promoted to chief deputy district attorney in fall 2005

QUOTE: "Although I never got to meet Laci, her death has forever changed me. As part of my job, I helped prosecute her murderer. During this long and difficult process, much of it away from my family, I came to know Laci. I learned who she was from her family and friends, I learned about her love for her son, Conner, and I learned about her indomitable spirit. I also learned how much she was, and is, still missed. Her murder was a senseless tragedy that even touched me -- a hardened career prosecutor."

Birgit Fladager

ROLE: Supervised prosecutors in the background initially but took a more active role when case foundered in early summer 2004. Questioned Detective Craig Grogan, one of the prosecution's more compelling witnesses.

AFTER TRIAL: Elected Stanislaus County district attorney in June 2006, besting former Judge Mike Cummins with 54 percent of the vote. Leads office of 145 employees and manages $16 million budget.

QUOTE: "Once they (the jurors) saw the evidence we had with Laci and Conner being found, I think that brought home to them the reality that this was a murder trial -- not a circus show, not all about publicity, not about TV. This is a homicide case. There's a monster sitting in the courtroom who doesn't look like a monster, and he's responsible for these two deaths."

James Brazelton

ROLE: Stanislaus County district attorney

AFTER TRIAL: Retired July 2005 to work in the private sector; died of natural causes Sept. 10 at age 66

QUOTE: "I won't miss that at all" -- on the spotlight that comes with elected office, upon retiring in 2005

Al Brocchini and Jon Buehler

ROLES: Modesto Police Department detectives. Brocchini conducted extensive interviews with Scott Peterson. Buehler worked with Amber Frey to record the phone conversations with Scott Peterson that became vital evidence.

AFTER TRIAL: Both were promoted to sergeant, leaving investigative services for the operations division.

QUOTE: Both men declined to comment.

Craig Grogan

ROLE: Modesto police's lead detective on the Peterson case and one of the prosecution's strongest witnesses. Tied together testimony from more than three months of questioning, including memorable 41-point explanation of why he thought Laci Peterson's body would be found in San Francisco Bay.

AFTER TRIAL: Reassigned to investigate cold cases for MPD. His work led to the November arrest of Russell Jones, who is charged in the 1999 murder of Dena Raley-McCluskey.

QUOTE: He declined to comment.


Mark Geragos

ROLE: Los Angeles TV legal analyst hired by Peterson family as lead defense attorney. Promised in opening statement to prove "beyond any doubt" that Peterson was "stone-cold innocent." Suggested that vagrants framed his client. Assumed he would win the guilt phase and apologized to jurors for failing to prepare for the penalty phase.

AFTER TRIAL: Has resumed cable TV appearances, commenting on the likes of Lindsay Lohan and Michael Vick. Unsuccessfully tried to defend wealthy motel owner convicted in August in Philadelphia of molesting five teenage boys in East European villages. Represents a 22-year-old Turlock woman accused of stealing the identity of Stanislaus County Supervisor Jim DeMartini to commit grand theft.

QUOTE: "I think that there's kind of a symbiotic relationship between the media and the police" -- criticizing Peterson case handling on MSNBC, May 21

Pat Harris

ROLE: Co-counsel to Geragos. Took the lead during death penalty phase.

AFTER TRIAL: Still works with Geragos' firm. Represented Scott Peterson as late as April 2006 in $25 million wrongful death lawsuit brought by Laci Peterson's parents.

Kirk McAllister

ROLE: Scott Peterson's first private attorney from Modesto who joined Geragos during October-November 2003 preliminary hearing here but bowed out when the trial moved to San Mateo County

AFTER TRIAL: Represents former pastor accused of murdering 85-year-old man for his money. Published a $250 lawyer's reference guide in August.

Cyril Wecht

ROLE: Forensics expert and Allegheny County coroner in Pennsylvania who examined remains of Laci and Conner Peterson for defense team but never testified

AFTER TRIAL: Published "Tales From the Morgue" in 2005, anchored on the Peterson case and murder of Modesto's Chandra Levy. Faces corruption trial in January on federal charges of using Allegheny County coroner's staff to benefit his private practice. Continues to work on high-profile cases, including Anna Nicole Smith's death and the murder trial involving music producer Phil Spector, and he provides analysis on cable TV.

QUOTE: "To this day, nobody knows what the cause of (Laci's) death was -- the mechanism (weapon), where she was killed and how she was killed. I'm not disputing the manner of death. It was frustrating intellectually in terms of the kind of input I like to make as a forensic pathologist. We (he, Geragos and Dr. Henry Lee) agreed it would serve no purpose for me to testify."

Henry Lee

ROLE: Criminologist who examined remains of Laci and Conner Peterson for defense team but never testified

AFTER TRIAL: Continues working high-profile cases, including Spector's trial in the murder of actress Lana Clarkson. A witness rocked that case by saying Lee had removed a piece of evidence from the crime scene.

Matt Dalton

ROLE: Fired from the defense team before Peterson's preliminary hearing in Modesto. Had ignored court's gag order while outlining human sacrifice theory in front of two Bee journalists shortly before he was sacked.

AFTER TRIAL: Defended Peterson in print with "Presumed Guilty," published in 2005 on one-year anniversary of death sentence. Continues private practice in Laguna Hills.


Judge Al Delucchi

ROLE: The retired Superior Court judge from Alameda County was assigned to the case when it went from Modesto to Redwood City.

AFTER TRIAL: Continued to handle cases for a few months, including early hearings for mortgage con artist Tony Daniloo of Turlock. Delucchi since has retired permanently and has been fighting prostate cancer for nearly 18 months.

E-MAILED QUOTE: "I am eternally grateful for the professional way both sides tried the case."

-- Jeff Jardine and Garth Stapley