Mark Geragos tells the jury that Scott Peterson was unquestionably boorish, but no murderer

By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated June 02, 2004 04:00 PM
Credit: POOL-Bart Ah You/ZUMA

On the second day of his trial, double-murder suspect Scott Peterson was described by his own lawyer as a two-timer – but not a murderer.

Defense attorney Mark Geragos confirmed in his opening remarks to the six-man, six-woman jury on Wednesday that Peterson behaved badly toward his pregnant wife Laci by cheating with another woman, but he did not kill Laci, according to reports from the Redwood City, Calif. courtroom.

“He is clearly a cad,” Geragos said in court, as quoted by Reuters. “If you want to say his behavior is boorish, we are not going to dispute that.”

But Geragos ridiculed the prosecution theory – advanced in Tuesday’s opening statements – that Peterson killed his wife on Christmas Eve 2002 and dumped her body into the San Francisco Bay because he wanted to start a new life with his mistress, massage therapist Amber Frey.

Geragos said Peterson and Frey were only casual acquaintances, and he questioned for the jurors why Peterson would plan “to chuck entirely the life he had built up with Laci with a woman with whom he had two dates?”

Geragos also underscored the prosecutor’s lack of direct evidence in the case. Prosecutors have no forensic evidence against Peterson and cannot say with certainty how, where or when Laci died.

On Tuesday, loud gasps greeted the prosecution’s opening statements as photos of the decomposed remains of Laci and her and Scott’s unborn son were projected in the courtroom.

Peterson – dressed in a beige suit and his hair cut shorter than it was at earlier court appearances – reportedly did not look up at the grisly images.

Stanislaus County prosecutor Rick Distaso began his remarks by recapping the events of Dec. 24, 2002 – the day that the eight-months-pregnant Laci disappeared. He painted the former fertilizer salesman as a liar whose stories differed about his whereabouts on the fateful night of Laci’s disappearance.

California’s attorney general once described the capital case against Peterson as a “slam dunk,” but legal experts, noting an absence of direct evidence linking Peterson to the disappearance and murder, are now saying that prosecutors appear to be relying on a web of circumstance.

Authorities allege Peterson, 31, killed his 27-year-old wife in their Modesto home because he was having an affair, then drove her body nearly 100 miles to San Francisco Bay and dumped it from his small boat. Peterson has pleaded not guilty.