The moment Amber Frey took the stand to testify against her former lover, Scott Peterson, at his murder trial was by several expert accounts a crucial shift against him — perhaps the earliest signal of his fate months later, when he would be convicted of two first-degree murders and sentenced to die.
For three months, as PEOPLE reported at the time, “the prosecution team apparently failed to connect the dots for jurors, while antagonizing the judge by bungling basic procedural matters.”
But then Frey took the stand, testifying for several days about her relationship with Peterson, her realization that he was still married and that his pregnant wife, Laci Peterson, had vanished. Frey first called police in Modesto, California, in late December 2002 to disclose the affair.
Equally as damning at trial, if not more so, were multiple phone conversations that Frey recorded between her and Scott after Laci’s disappearance — recordings that were played alongside Frey’s testimony, exposing him to many as a chillingly casual manipulator of the truth.
As one legal expert described it at the time, in the midst of the trial, “We were in the seventh inning and the score was 5-0 for the defense. Now, it’s 5-5 and the bases are loaded.”
That key development is relived again in Tuesday night’s episode of The Murder of Laci Peterson on A&E, which is exclusively previewed above. The six-part docuseries traces the killing and Scott’s prosecution.
“[The] trial changed dramatically with the prosecution’s star witness, Amber Frey, and she knocked it out of the park,” local TV reporter Ted Rowlands recalls in the clip. “And it wasn’t actually Amber Frey as much as those recordings.”
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“Amber came across as one of the most credible people you could ever hear testify,” says Frey’s then-attorney, Gloria Allred. “And Scott Peterson on those recordings came across as one of the biggest liars one could ever hear.”
It’s juror Mike Belmessieri, speaking out in the A&E series, who provides insight into how Frey’s testimony affected the jury — and it was not in Scott’s favor.
Belmessieri says in the preview clip that the “single greatest issue” was the discrepancy, revealed by Frey’s taped conversations, between Scott’s behavior to her and to others in the aftermath of Laci going missing.
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On New Year’s Eve, the same night a candlelight vigil was held for his wife, Scott called Frey, pretending to be in Paris while traveling.
Of hearing that himself, Belmessieri says in the preview, “[Scott was] still playing a game. I’m like, ‘Wait a minute, you know, something’s not right here.’ “
Rowlands, an outside observer to the proceedings, put the general reaction to the Frey revelations in more colorful terms: “It was insanity. Everyone in the courtroom was just thinking, ‘Oh my God.’ “
The Murder of Laci Peterson continues Tuesday (10 p.m. ET) on A&E.