A gynecologist's testimony raises questions about when Scott and Laci's unborn son died

By Frank Swertlow
Updated October 22, 2004 08:00 AM

An expert witness for the defense took the stand Thursday in the Scott Peterson double-murder trial to discuss when the fetus being carried by Peterson’s murdered wife, Laci, may have died.

Dr. Charles March, a former USC medical professor and OBGYN specialist, testified that, based on all the “information gathered from Laci Peterson’s ultrasound” on Sept. 24, 2002, and from her pregnancy test on June 9, 2002, “her son did not die” on Dec. 23 (when Laci disappeared from the Peterson home) “but six days, later on Dec. 29.”

Legal analysts say that March’s testimony could bolster the defense’s theory that Laci was kidnapped and held and that her son was born alive. Both were subsequently murdered and their bodies dumped into San Francisco Bay. Scott Peterson, 31, has pleaded not guilty to the crimes.

March, however, did concede under cross-examination that attaching a time of conception is not an exact science and there is no way to completely guarantee the age of a fetus at death. He also further undermined his credibility when he became irritable during questioning and asked the prosecution to “cut me some slack.”

Former San Francisco prosecutor James Hammer, who’s observing the case, noted: “How many times have you ever seen a defense expert beg the prosecution to cut him some slack?”

Geragos, he said, took a gamble by putting March on the stand to testify about a Dec. 29 death date for Laci’s baby Conner. “His demeanor, his tone on the stand showed that the DA’s expert was better qualified,” Hammer said.

As far as the case’s timetable is concerned, Judge Alfred A. Delucchi told jurors Thursday that they would be sequestered for deliberations set to begin Nov. 3. To date, they have been free to go home throughout the five months of the trial.