- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 2, 2004

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. (AP) — Jurors in Scott Peterson’s murder trial will hear wiretap evidence collected by investigators and some, but not all, of the details gathered by scent-sniffing police dogs, a judge ruled yesterday in two of the most crucial pretrial decisions to date.

Experts have said the dog-tracking evidence could be the most damaging to the defense theory that Laci Peterson was at home Christmas Eve morning 2002 before she vanished later that day — when Mr. Peterson claims to have been fishing on San Francisco Bay.

Prosecutors say the dogs picked up Mrs. Peterson’s scent in several places in the days after her disappearance, including the Berkeley Marina where Mr. Peterson, who is accused of killing his wife, claims to have begun his solo fishing trip.

Judge Alfred A. Delucchi decided to allow only the evidence gathered by dogs at the marina. Prosecutors also wanted to present evidence that the dogs had detected a broken trail of scents leading from Mrs. Peterson’s home to the warehouse where Mr. Peterson kept his boat, along the boat’s rim and at the marina.

Court precedent requires corroboration of any dog-tracking evidence, Judge Delucchi said, adding that Mr. Peterson has admitted to being at the marina and that the bodies of his wife and unborn son washed ashore along San Francisco Bay in April just two miles from there.

“It would be foolhardy for the court to admit this [other] evidence because it would inject a cancer into the record,” Judge Delucchi said.

Defense lawyers likened dog tracking to witchcraft, and said the canines were unreliable. Prosecutors have presented neither witnesses to the killing nor a murder weapon.

Authorities say Mr. Peterson, 31, murdered his pregnant wife in their Modesto home on Dec. 24, 2002, because he was having an affair with a massage therapist, then drove her to the Bay and dumped her overboard from his small boat.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin tomorrow, when court officials will summon an initial 200 residents for questioning. Mr. Peterson could face the death penalty if convicted.

On the topic of wiretaps, defense lawyers had argued that investigators violated Mr. Peterson’s attorney-client privilege when they listened to bits of conversations with his first attorney, Kirk McAllister.

Judge Delucchi was unswayed by the arguments, saying investigators followed proper procedures when monitoring the calls and any privileged information they heard was “so minimal to be of no consequence.”

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