Peterson Trial: Tempers Fly Among In-Laws

Peterson Trial: Tempers Fly Among In-Laws
AL GOLUB/EPA/Landov

updated 09/09/2004 at 09:30 AM EDT

originally published 09/09/2004 09:30AM

Tuesday's testimony in the double-murder trial of Scott Peterson, who's accused of murdering his pregnant wife Laci, apparently triggered a heated exchange outside the courtroom between Scott's father, Lee Peterson, and Laci's stepfather, Ron Grantski.

The exact cause of the confrontation is not clear but appears to have been sparked by a witness's testimony about Central Valley fishing holes.

"Where were you fishing?" Lee Peterson was heard to have said.

"Come down here and I'll tell you where I went fishing," Grantski responded, right before the men parted.

In the courtroom, prosecutors introduced the only forensic evidence in the case so far: a hair believed to be Laci's (according to DNA tests) tangled in a pair of pliers discovered at the bottom of her husband's fishing boat.

Prosecutors contend that he dumped his wife's remains from the boat into San Francisco Bay on Christmas Eve 2002. He has pleaded not guilty.

Also in the courtroom, the district attorneys again scored – only for the defense – when their own witness questioned the motives of Modesto police detective Al Brocchini.

Despite winning small points earlier in the day, the prosecution torpedoed itself in the second half when witness Christopher Van Zandt, a mountain biker who was visiting his parents in Modesto on Dec. 24, 2002, was cross-examined by defense attorney Mark Geragos.

The Carmel, Calif. resident explained that the detective was disinterested when he called Brocchini and said he saw a pregnant woman walking her dog in the park that day. Van Zandt testified that he distinctly saw the dogwalker's face – contrary to what Brocchini later wrote in a police report.

"The big damage done today was the (Det.) Brocchini matter," said trial watcher and former San Francisco homicide prosecutor Jim Hammer. "You have a civilian witness calling the lead detective a liar. That's huge. That lack of credibility washes off on the DA. It shows the detective rushed to judgment and wasn't fair (in exploring other possible leads.)"

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