New developments in the Laci Peterson case: A new report says police confiscated guns from Scott’s house. It seems firearms were among the items that Modesto police took from Scott Peterson’s home when they served the search warrant back in February.
ACCORDING TO “The Modesto Bee,” several shotguns and a handgun were confiscated. Now, Scott’s father, Lee Peterson, told “The Bee” the guns were for hunting. He said “Police have Scott’s guns. He had some bird guns and a handgun. It’s not against the law. This is the United States.”
So what role, if any, could Scott’s guns play in the case? Our legal panel — criminal defense attorney Jayne Weintraub, former prosecutor Bill Fallon, and forensic pathologist Dr. Werner Spitz weighed in Friday.
CATHERINE CRIER, GUEST HOST: I had a chance to actually see some of the autopsy photographs when I was back in Modesto several weeks ago. There wasn’t much left of Laci’s torso. Certainly, they have had no findings that we know of regarding everything from saw marks or hack marks to, of course, bullet holes. So what difference do these guns make?
DR. WERNER SPITZ, Forensic pathologist : You know what this business with the guns smells like to me is that the prosecution is fishing. The guns may make a difference if— and the emphasis is on if— there is subsequently a bullet found and the bullet matches with a test bullet fired through this or that weapon. Then you can draw conclusions. As it stands, there are probably millions of people in America who have guns.
Well, if there is no wound in the body, then the presence of a gun means nothing. Of course, if there is a contact shot that is a shot that is fired at contact range, then, as a result of the blowback from the gases, there may very well be blood or hair or even skin or fat on the gun or inside the barrel.
BILL FALLON, Former prosecutor: Ithink, right now, this is that typical red herring. It sounds sexy. It sounds important. So I actually am being a little negative on the story and why it even had to get out —But I don’t see the guns as helping either side.
Probably, the prosecution’s going to say, “We don’t know if it was poison, a gun, a dart, whatever. So, at least he had access to guns.” If I’m the defense, I would get up there and say, “He’s a gun owner.”
Now, I think that his father, interestingly enough, by bringing out the story of the gun in the house, I look at that as — who knows whether those mystery miscreants, the friends of Charles Manson, come back and commit these murders. They needed protection.
But the more interesting stuff are the other details: You have Scott selling the car the day after Christmas. “My wife is out of town. I guess I’ll sell her car.” If I’m on the jury, that’s my worst fact. It’s the little facts that are the killers for defendants. And that’s a bad fact.
JAYNE WEINTRAUB, Criminal defense attorney: We know that there was a burglary diagonally across the street, which led to the brown van. But I think, more interestingly, is that, I’m sure what Lee Peterson means to say is, there’s no prejudice in the fact that he had a gun, because they’re reporting that he had all these guns, and we know that from the warrant.
I think what Lee Peterson is saying is, (A), lots of people have guns in the United States; (B), I think that Dr. Werner, of course, is correct, and Mr. Fallon, that, without the bullet or a casing from the bullet or the shell of the bullet, and the wound, there’s no evidence whatsoever of a cause of death in this case. And there won’t be.
I disagree with Bill, in that a prosecutor is not going to be able to get up and say to a jury, well, maybe it was this and maybe it was that. I don’t think a judge is going to let that speculation come into this here.
They have the burden of proof, the state. And they must prove-first-degree murder is what they charged, premeditation and a homicide. And so far, there’s no evidence of any premeditation or a homicide. And that includes a gunshot wound, poisoning or anything else you want to speculate on. There isn’t any. I think that the story is prejudicial to the defense.