Scott Peterson case: Court docs detail new evidence for potential new trial

Scott Peterson Trial

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. (KRON) — Defense attorneys say new evidence in the Scott Peterson case prove prosecutors failed to establish an accurate timeline of Dec. 24, 2002 — the day Laci Peterson vanished from her home in Modesto. 

Scott Peterson wants a new trial to prove he did not murder his pregnant wife.

He may get that chance because of multiple recent legal victories won in the State Supreme Court this year.

KRON4 news asked Scott Peterson’s defense attorney, Pat Harris, to talk about what new, compelling evidence exists. Harris declined, but he said many of those details are in Scott Peterson’s writ of habeas corpus. Harris said new evidence uncovered by a private investigator can prove that “an innocent man” is innocent.

Habeas corpus documents dive into evidence and witnesses that the jury was able to hear — and what evidence and witnesses that the jury did not hear — before they convicted him of murdering his wife, unborn son, and sentenced him to death.

The new evidence focuses on trying to prove that prosecutors failed to establish when, where, or how Laci was killed. It also attempts to debunk the motives that prosecutors gave.

Documents cite new witnesses, including a mailman and an anonymous tip, to show Laci Peterson was still alive when her husband left their Modesto home on Christmas Eve morning to go fishing in the Berkeley marina.

Scott Peterson sits in the Stanislaus County courthouse January 23, 2004 in Modesto. (Photo by Bart Ah You-Pool/Getty Images)

“The time of the crime ultimately became the critical disputed issue at trial. The state’s theory was that Laci was killed before Scott left for Berkeley. The defense theory was that Laci was still alive when Scott left the house that morning.  If, in fact, Laci was at home and alive after Scott left that morning, Scott is innocent,” documents state.

Prosecutors told the jury that there was a small 10-minute time window between when Scott Peterson left the house to go fishing, and when their dog was found wandering around the neighborhood. Prosecutors said it was ridiculous to say someone kidnapped her in such a small time window.

Scott Peterson’s habeas corpus says that the time window was in fact seven hours. Laci Peterson took the dog for a walk after the neighbor found and returned the dog to the backyard, not before. It cites several people who claim to have seen Laci Peterson walking the dog that day.

Scott Peterson is escorted by two San Mateo County Sheriff deputies as he is walked from the jail to an awaiting van 2005 in Redwood City, (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Habeas corpus documents say, “Newly discovered evidence, however, establishes that the state’s time line was simply wrong. Though he was unaware of its very existence, defense counsel has recently admitted that the prosecution provided him with a police report describing a December 27, 2002 interview with Russell Graybill. Graybill was the Petersons’ postman, and he delivered mail to the Peterson home between 10:35 and 10:50 a.m. on December 24, 2002. Graybill knew the Petersons’ dog, McKenzi, and explained to police (and has recently declared) that McKenzi would bark at him no matter where on the property the dog happened to be. Whether the dog was in the front or back yards, or even inside the house, McKenzi would bark at Graybill. On December 27, 2002, Graybill told police that McKenzi did not bark at him on Christmas Eve. Moreover, Graybill told police that the Petersons’ gate was open when he showed up between 10:35 and 10:50 a.m. on Christmas Eve. This was some 15 to 30 minutes after Servas had put the dog back into the yard and closed the gate, indicating Laci had gone on her walk after Servas put the dog away  This evidence is consistent with Servas’s original statements to police. When first interviewed, Servas told police that when she put McKenzi into the backyard, she thought she heard Laci in the backyard gardening. Coupled with Graybill’s statements that the gate was open and McKenzi did not bark at him — as he always did — Servas’s statement tends to prove that Laci took the dog for a walk after Servas put him back into the backyard. Of course, it was certainly not unusual for McKenzi to escape. Indeed, Servas testified that she had found McKenzi out loose in the neighborhood on prior occasions. Graybill’s statements strongly suggested that Laci had taken McKenzi for a walk after Servas had put the dog back in the backyard. If this were true, the time line was much, much longer than ten minutes as the prosecutor claimed. Instead, Laci could have been abducted anytime between 10:18 a.m. (when Servas put the dog inside and drove away) and 5:15 p.m., when (Scott Peterson) returned home and found McKenzi with his leash on. While ten minutes may be a short window, much can — and did — happen in seven hours. But the evidence that Laci disappeared after petitioner left to go fishing did not end with Graybill. Three witnesses who never testified could have also confirmed that Laci went for a walk with McKenzi after Servas found him on the street and returned him to the backyard.”

Laci Peterson
Laci Peterson

KRON4 emailed Scott Peterson’s sister-in-law, Janey Peterson, to ask about what pieces of new evidence she feels are the strongest.

Some of Janey Peterson’s responses included:

  • “Laci sightings and how the mailman’s lost comments changed the whole perspective on the morning timeline.”
  • “Other possible suspects (Medina Burglary, the Aponte Tip)”
  • “Tidal expert in habeas stated that Laci’s body could have been put anywhere along the shore of the bay and ended up being where she and Conner were found. This supports the defense assertion that whoever killed Laci took advantage of the fact that Scott’s alibi was widely and immediately publicized. The prosecutions expert from the trial, Dr. Cheng, conceded both at trial and in Scott’s habeas that he was not an expert in how bodies moved in water. The prosecution used Dr. Cheng’s testimony at trial to imply that the only place Laci’s body could have been dumped was along Scott’s fishing route.”
  • “Fetal development expert indicates Conner could have been alive as late as January 3rd. This refutes the prosecution’s doctor that said Conner’s date of death was Dec. 24th.”

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