With the verdict in and the sentencing complete for Scott Peterson, the prosecutors and detectives responsible for sending him to death row for the murder of his pregnant wife Laci spoke exclusively to PEOPLE about what went on behind the scenes. In addition to the revelations in this week’s PEOPLE, here’s an online-only excerpt from their candid discussion with reporter Vickie Bane.
DEALING WITH AMBER
Modesto Police Detective Jon Buehler worked with Scott Peterson’s mistress, Amber Frey, throughout the investigation, and calls her “exceptional” as a witness. Fifteen minutes after Frey’s call to the tip line (saying that she was romantically involved with Scott), Buehler and Detective Al Brocchini were on their way to Fresno to speak with Frey in person. Almost as an afterthought, she remembered she had pictures of herself with Scott.
“We went to Rite-Aid with her,” recalls Buehler, “and said, ‘Pictures for Amber Frey,’ and they brought them right over to the table. We opened them up right there at the photo counter.”
Even then, says Buehler, it wasn’t enough to get Scott, “but it was certainly interesting that he was this other person nobody knew about.” It raised the question, says Prosecutor Dave Harris, “Why was he lying?”
One of the myths Buehler thinks was perpetuated about Amber was her love for Scott.
“Of all those recorded tapes,” reveals Buehler, “and there were over 28 hours of recorded conversations, she never once said, ‘I love you’ to Scott. It’s been reported, and I’ve heard some people say she was in love with him, and if she was, she kept it from us because she never told us she was in love with him. She seemed vulnerable. She certainly wasn’t desperate, but she was looking for a good guy. She apparently thought she had found one. She was looking forward to her future … and all of a sudden the bottom sort of falls out of those plans.”
SCOTT PETERSON’S DEMEANOR
Although Peterson was emotional in his phone conversations with Amber, Peterson’s widely reported “lack of emotion” in the courtroom carried over to the judge’s chambers, where the attorneys for both sides would discuss what would and wouldn’t be allowed in court.
Stanislaus County prosecutor Rick Distaso says the question he’s most often asked is about Peterson’s demeanor. Peterson was “pretty much exactly what you saw in court. (Emotionless.) He certainly wasn’t like any defendant I’ve prosecuted before.”
Only once did they see him react. “We were looking at evidence one day, and the defense wanted to take something out. I said, ‘Nope, nobody is taking my originals,'” recalls Harris, and defense attorney Mark Geragos acquiesced. “For some reason, Scott got upset about this and was in Geragos’s face. He was sitting at the council table, not about to go anywhere … You could see the tendons in Scott’s neck. He was a little hot. I think we all made a comment that we would like him to take the stand because if he can’t control himself, it would be fun to cross-examine him.” IN COURT, IN THE MEDIA
When it came to trial, however, they never got a shot at Peterson – though many on the prosecution side took hits from the defense. Geragos and the Peterson family repeatedly lambasted Modesto Police Detective Al Brocchini, who was accused of “shoddy police work.” Although Brocchini feels vindicated by Peterson’s conviction, he admits that it was a difficult time.
“Sure it got to me,” admits Brocchini. “I was worried about other witnesses on other cases who would think I’m dirty or think I lie.
“When this case started, my son was in the Marines,” adds Brocchini. “He got off the plane in Oregon and called me. He said, ‘Dad, across the tickertape (on CNN), there is, ‘Detective Brocchini: Bad Cop?'” Brocchini sighs deeply and looks down. “I said, ‘It’s going to be all right, Daniel.’ And, by the time this case ended, he was a police officer with us.”
Brocchini says what made it the hardest was not being able to respond to the media coverage. “We had to be quiet and just take it.”
All the prosecutors maintain they never doubted they would win. “We were buoyant really,” says Prosecutor Birgit Fladager about waiting for the verdict.
“I never worried that we weren’t going to get a not guilty,” admits Distaso. “Like everybody else, I worried about a hung jury.”
“After the verdict came in and we went into chambers with the judge, Geragos, of course was not there, but (defense lawyer) Pat Harris shook our hands and was very gracious,” remembers Fladager.
“He told us we did a very good job,” adds Distaso, who believes, “We were never as bad as (the media) said we were in the beginning, and we were probably never as good as they said we were in the end.”
For more on the Peterson prosecutors and detectives, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now.