- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 2, 2004

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. (AP) — Scott Peterson’s attorney pleaded with the jury yesterday not to convict his client of murder just because prosecutors made him look like a “jerk and a liar.”

Mark Geragos said in closing arguments that the evidence shows Mr. Peterson did not murder his wife, Laci, and the fetus she carried, and that he had no motive to do so.

Mr. Geragos suggested that the prosecutors had made the jury hate his client. But he added: “You’re not supposed to just decide this case on whether or not you like Scott Peterson.”

Mr. Geragos then accused prosecutors of waffling on their theory of the crime, first contending that Mr. Peterson’s affair with massage therapist Amber Frey was his motive for murder, then later arguing that Mr. Peterson wanted to escape married life.

“Clearly Amber was not the motive. Nobody was going to kill Laci Peterson and her child for Amber Frey,” the attorney said.

The jurors heard the prosecution’s closing argument Monday and were expected to begin deliberations as early as today. The trial began with jury selection in March and opening statements in June.

Prosecutors contend that Mr. Peterson strangled or smothered his wife on Dec. 23 or 24, 2002, then dumped her weighted body into San Francisco Bay. Defense lawyers say someone else abducted and killed Mrs. Peterson.

Mr. Peterson is charged with two counts of first-degree murder and could get the death penalty. The jury will also be allowed to consider second-degree murder, which does not require evidence of premeditation and carries 15 years to life in prison.

In their closing arguments, prosecutors made their case for premeditation, contending each bit of evidence is like a piece of a puzzle that convicts the former fertilizer salesman.

But Mr. Geragos said pieces are missing in that puzzle. He said Mr. Peterson had paid a bill for Mrs. Peterson’s health insurance the day before she vanished.

In addition, he said, “Maybe the logical explanation for the fact that we have no evidence of her struggling in that house, dying in that house, is because it didn’t happen in that house.”

Also, Mr. Geragos said police found that someone had used a computer in the Peterson home on the morning Mrs. Peterson vanished — after authorities contend Mr. Peterson had already killed his wife — to search Web sites for a fleece scarf and a sunflower-motif umbrella stand.

He suggested the user was actually Mrs. Peterson because the schoolteacher had a tattoo of a sunflower on her ankle.

Mr. Geragos said police never tried to determine who the computer user was “because they didn’t want to know the answer.”

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