The Scott Peterson Case Individuals break crimes all the time but some cases take America by storm with the mass amount of media coverage. The Scott Peterson trail is a prime example of a criminal case that took the nation by storm. What makes the Scott Peterson trail special is the fact that for the first time in California an individual was sentenced to death based solely on circumstantial evidence. In this paper I will be discussing the Scott Peterson case in three key areas background/summary, evidence, and finally crime elements.
Background/summary On Christmas Eve in 2003 Scott Petersons pregnant wife Laci Peterson disappeared from Modesto, California. This case drew great amounts of news coverage all across America for almost two years. In the beginning of this case Scott Peterson was initially questioned on the location of his wife and Peterson claimed that his wife disappeared sometime after he left the house for a fishing trip at the San Francisco Bay. However, a month later into the investigation on the location of Peterson’s wife Amber Frey came forward to tell the police that she has been having an affair with Scott Peterson the whole time.
This key information shattered the clean-cut image of Scott Peterson being a loving, concerned, and devoted husband (History, 2009). The lies continued to come from Scott the entire time the police were searching for clues to the disappearance of Laci. Some key lies that further added on to the police suspicions that Scott had a hand in his wife’s disappearance was when Scott sold Lacis sports-utility vehicle and when Scott went on national TV blatantly lying that he told the police of his affair with Amber Frey.
After these facts and lies that Scott told the world the attorneys felt they had almost enough to arrest and charge Scott but were discussing how difficult it would be to prosecute Scott without the bodies of Laci or Conner. That all changed when the bodies of Laci and Conner were found on the San Francisco Bay shore on April 13th and 14th 2003. The police immediately arrested Scott Peterson for the murder of his wife Laci and unborn son Conner on April 18th 2003 (Bane et al. , 2005). Almost a week after Scott Peterson was arrested the formal charges were dropped on Peterson being two counts of first-degree murder with a special circumstance.
This special circumstance allowed the prosecutors to seek the death penalty instead of just life in prison. Scotts trial began on June 1st 2004 and over the entire course of 19 weeks the prosecutors introduced 174 witnesses, and hundreds of pieces of evidence designed to portray Scott Peterson as a cold blooded murderer. All of this evidence and witnesses were hindered by the fact that there were no direct eyewitnesses to the crime along with no murder weapon. Ultimately on November 12th 2004 Scott Peterson was convicted of first-degree murder of his wife and second-degree murder of his unborn son.
Scott Peterson showed no emotion during the reading of the verdict even though the audience and Lacis family cheered during the entire reading of the guilty verdict (History, 2009). Furthermore, On March 16th 2005 Judge Alfred Delucchi formally sentenced Scott Peterson to death by lethal injection. Judge Delucchi also denied the defenses request for a new trial based on the evidence of juror misconduct and the medias influence. Judge Delucchi also ordered Scott Peterson to pay $10,000 dollars towards Lacis funeral (Blanco, n. d. ).
Evidence There was a good amount of evidence used in the Scott Peterson trial by the prosecution but all of it was circumstantial with not one piece of hard evidence. Five key items of evidence that the prosecution used to sway the jury in convicting Scott Peterson were the defenses major blunder from Dr. Charles March, the missing cement, the affair with Amber Frey, the two tarps used on the fishing trip, and finally the ultimate break down of Petersons fishing alibi. The first key item of evidence and the straw that broke the camels back was the complete break down of the defenses key witness Dr. Charles March. Dr. March was brought to the trail as the defenses key witness to prove that Scott Petersons unborn son Conner was alive past the December 24th date of the alleged murder of Petersons wife Laci. This would prove Scotts innocence in the murder by showing the jury that Conner was alive until December 29th but the whole testimony from Dr. March was based on the idea that Laci told her friends she was pregnant on June 9th with no factual evidence of a pregnancy test being taken.
District Attorney Dave Harris jumped all over this assumption by asking Dr. March “Where in the medical records does it talk about Laci Peterson using a pregnancy test on June 9? ” he demanded. “Nowhere,” said the suddenly uneasy Dr. March” (Hewitt, Swertlow, Stambler, Bane, & Arias, 2004, para. 5). Dr. March acknowledged that Laci could have already been pregnant for days bringing the date of the fetus death back closer to the original December 24th date. This major blunder by the defense crippled the case against Scott Peterson bringing a guilty image of Peterson to the entire jury. The second key item of evidence the missing cement was presented during the trial by the prosecution.
The prosecution introduced numerous pieces of captivating evidence that made it look that Scott Peterson created five anchors from the 80-pound bag of cement that he had purchased previously. Only one anchor was found at Petersons residence making the claim that the other four were used to weigh down Laci’s body before being thrown into the San Francisco Bay. All of this information was circumstantial and the defense showed that the new cement around the Peterson home is the same cement from the bag. This showed the jury that Scott was doing self-improvement projects with the cement around his home and not making extra anchors (Hewitt et al. 2004). The third key piece of evidence is Scott Peterson’s affair with Amber Fry that shed the light from the loving/worried husband to a cheating/unfaithful husband. The prosecution never used the affair as a motive to why Scott killed his wife but it shed the light that maybe Scott wanted to get back to the bachelor life. Scott Peterson was caught on numerous tapes telling Amber Frey that he did not want any kids and was thinking about getting a vasectomy even though his wife at the time was seven months pregnant. Scott also told Amber that her daughter would be enough for him.
Furthermore, during the month after the disappearance of Laci Scott spoke separately to two friends whom are relators asking for help to sell his home. He told one of the relators that he wanted to keep the sale quite and even wanted to sell the furniture with the home. These key pieces of evidence showed the jury that Scott Peterson was trying to get rid of anything that could be used against him making him look very guilt in the murder of his wife (CNN, 2007). The fourth key piece of evidence being the tarps found in Scott Petersons garage.
The two tarps were used during the fishing trip but were covered in gasoline and fertilizer both items destroy any DNA or human DNA that can be used by the authorities. This was very alarming to the jury and also continued to shed the light on the guilty theory the prosecution was going after. The fifth and final piece of key evidence used in this trial was the break down of Scott Petersons fishing alibi. The prosecution showed that expert fisherman testified that there was no chance of Scott Peterson catching any sturgeon or striper based on the improper rod, tackle, and boat Scott used during the trip.
Furthermore, Peterson went past a dozen fishing spots to go specifically to the bay and the bay harbor said that there was no rain at the Berkeley Marina the day Scott went fishing. This shattered the alibi of Scott Peterson further shedding light on the guilty claim the prosecution was going for (CNN, 2007). Crime elements The primary crime elements of this case are the first-degree murder of Scott Peterson’s wife Laci, the second-degree murder of Peterson’s unborn son Conner, and the addition of the special circumstance.
The first crime element first-degree murder is classified under California Penal Code 187 Homicide. Firstdegree murder is reserved for especially evil crimes involving premeditation, planning or deliberate planning, and intent to kill Scott Peterson was being charged with first-degree murder for the killing of his wife. The second crime element second-degree murder is also classified under California Penal Code 187 homicide. Second-degree murder is an intentional killing that is neither planned, nor committed in a reasonable heat of the moment (Homicide, 1872/1996).
This charge came from the killing of his wife Laci that also resulted in the death of his unborn son Conner. A key piece of legislation came from this trial being the Unborn Victims of Violence Act16 better known as Laci and Conner’s Law. This law makes it a separate federal crime to “kill or attempt to kill” a fetus “at any stage of development” during an assault on a pregnant woman (Schmalleger, 2013, p. 212). The third and final crime element the introduction of the special circumstance was key in making the death penalty an option for this case. Under California Penal Code 190.
Homicide a individual may be convicted of special circumstances murder / capital murder if the individuals has been found guilty of both first-degree and second-degree murder at the same trial (Homicide, 1872/1996). Due to the fact that Scott Peterson’s wife and unborn child were killed this special circumstance was brought into the case to open the option of the death penalty. Scott Peterson was found guilty of both charges and was ultimately sentenced to death by lethal injection. All of this was created on circumstantial evidence that the prosecution beautifully displayed the entire case.
In conclusion throughout this entire paper discussed the Scott Peterson case in three key areas background/summary, evidence, and finally crime elements. This case shock up the entire county based on the primary fact of the case being the death/murder of a wife and unborn child. The mass media coverage and ultimate outcome of the case was unprecedented in the fact that is all based off of circumstantial evidence. This case shows that even with not one piece of hard evidence a jury can be convinced that Scott Peterson was guilty of killing his wife and unborn child.