Friends, Family Damage Scott's Defense
POOL-Bart Ah You/ZUMA
One of the key elements in the prosecution's case against Scott Peterson – who stands accused of killing his wife, Laci, and their unborn son, Conner – is the possible murder motive that the former fertilizer salesman did not want to be a parent.
During Tuesday's testimony, three prosecution witnesses chillingly described Peterson's attitude toward becoming a father, delivering a potential blow to the defense's painstaking attempts to show that Peterson was looking forward to fatherhood.
Rose Rocha, Laci's sister-in-law and her brother Brent's wife, said she was delighted at the news that Laci was pregnant. But when she congratulated Scott Peterson, his startling response caused the courtroom to go silent.
"Are you ready for this?" she said she asked Peterson at a family party. His reply, as she testified: "I was kind of hoping for infertility."
When one of Peterson's defense attorneys, Pat Harris, cross-examined Rocha, he asked if Peterson's remark might have been "a joke."
"He was not laughing," she replied. "He was not smiling when I heard it."
Gwendolyn Temple, a close friend of Rocha's, said she talked to Peterson about his pending fatherhood on Nov. 12, 2002, about six weeks before his wife disappeared. His remarks puzzled her when she asked him if he was prepared to play football with his son.
"No, I don't play football," said Peterson. Pressed further about whether he was prepared to toss a baseball around with his son, Peterson replied, "I have friends to do that."
Sandy Ricard, who described herself as Sharon Rocha's best friend, raised another troubling issue for the defense when she testified that on the night Laci went missing, Peterson suddenly went up to her outside his house – while investigators, friends and neighbors were milling around the residence – and told her that he was worried that the Modesto police might find some potentially incriminating evidence on his truck.
"I would suppose that they will find blood on my truck. I am a fisherman and a hunter," she quoted Scott as saying. Ricard added: "I was perplexed why he said it."
Loyola Law professor Stan Goldman, who was present during the afternoon testimony in the Redwood City, Calif., courtroom, said Peterson's remark about "infertility," if said seriously, supports the prosecution's argument that "he really didn't want a child, which is something contrary to what the defense is saying."
Goldman said a bigger blow to the defense could be the remark to Ricard that he was worried that the police would find blood on his truck.
"The key to the case becomes why is Scott Peterson so guilty so as to worry about blood on the truck immediately after his wife disappears," he said. "It reminds me of O.J. Simpson's line during the trial against him that he was afraid to take a lie detector test because he had dreams about killing his wife. Why in the world are you worried about such things?"