June 28, 2004 12:00 PM

Tempers are already fraying as Scott Peterson’s murder trial enters its third week. At recess on June 9, after testimony favorable to Scott, Gwen Kemple–a Laci relative–loudly asked Scott’s father, Lee Peterson, “What are you grinning at?” A few days later, on June 14, the tables were turned: As enraged defense attorney Mark Geragos demanded a mistrial (see box), some of Laci’s family snickered. Shot back Geragos: “I don’t need comments from the peanut gallery.”

Meanwhile, Geragos and deputy district attorney Rick Distaso each appeared to score points. Some of the prosecution’s best moments came from Modesto detective Matthew Spurlock, who testified that Peterson responded with a “blank stare” when asked what he was fishing for the day Laci disappeared and what he had used for bait. But later Geragos seemed to trip up Spurlock on whether cars could drive into East La Loma Park. (They can.) Earlier the defense lawyer had established that police saw transient “encampments” in the park; this could lay the groundwork for his theory that Laci was abducted near her home, perhaps while walking her dog in the park, and driven away in a tan van. Observes Loyola Law School professor Stan Goldman: “Every time the prosecution puts a witness on the stand, they take two steps forward and one step back.”

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