Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Bodies - Bay - Boat - The Flaws in the 'Logic'

Many believe that finding the bodies of Conner and Laci in the same body of water where, almost 4 months earlier, Scott was fishing somehow proves something towards his guilt. Although they are unable to formulate a logical reason for this belief somehow it persists - perhaps because of the complete lack of probative evidence against Scott in this case. Let us examine that.

Let us suppose that the body of Conner was found on the front lawn of the Peterson home but 4 months after Laci was last seen. Then, a day later, suppose that the body of Laci was found about a mile away in the park where she was last seen. How would that serve to convict Scott?

Let us then suppose that the body of Conner was found somewhere in the woods around Millinocket, Maine but 4 months after Laci was last seen. Then, a day later, suppose that the body of Laci was found about a mile away from that of her son. How would that serve to convict Scott?

In the first case Scott spent much time there. Would that make the belief in his guilt more or less likely? In the second case, Scott presumably cannot be shown to have ever been in Millinocket, Maine. Would that make the belief in his guilt more or less likely?

So exactly what is it about the location that makes his presumed guilt seem possible? There was never anything but a theory that his wife was transported to the bay at the time she went missing - not a molecule of proof was ever offered.

What is the radius of the circle within which he cannot be assumed to be guilty but outside of which he may be? What is the radius of the larger circle outside of which he cannot be assumed to be guilty but within which he may be? And what is the center point of either or both circles?

Ultimately, where the bodies were found doesn't imply Scott's guilt. It doesn't because all it proves is that Laci and Conner's bodies were put where they were found by one of approximately 200 million people who had access to Modesto and to the bay. But we already knew that because whoever abducted her was also one of those 200 million people. What we don't have is any evidence that allows us narrow that number down to one and only one person. That was completely missing from the case and the trial.

However, what it does so is add some considerable weight to his claims of innocence. It does this because the bodies were found separated in space but within 24 hours of one another. This is extraordinary, because it is so unlikely. What we should have heard if the prosecution's theory was correct was that one body was found in one location and that the other body turned up several days or even weeks later. The sea does not yield her flotsam in a synchronized manner. It took the interference of some person or persons for these two to arrive within a 24 hour period after 4 months in which no trace of anything was found.

It is unbelievable that nothing else turned up for another 4 months -- or in fact ever. It is much less likely than two very different people going on an 8 hour walk following different routes but crossing at a mid point and within 2 minutes of each other. That is too much of a coincidence.

If there were overwhelming and convincing evidence of the prosecution theory then this coincidence might be reluctantly accepted as very unlikely but not beyond all bounds of possibility. However since the prosecution was unable to provide even one molecule of evidence that their theory had any validity it is one more circumstance that puts the lie to their case.

Why were the bodies handled so differently? There must have been a reason. Perhaps whoever had Laci didn't want to actually murder her but they couldn't let her go either as she could identify them. When first Conner and then Laci died their problem was solved. At some point one or more of them decided to dump the bodies. As Laci was so deteriorated they dropped the remains into the sea off the Albany Bulb, wrongly assuming they would go out to sea and never be found (all identifiable parts of the body were missing and have never been found - this may be significant).

However they placed the baby where he was found, above the highest high tide mark, in the hope that the search was continuing (it wasn't) and that the family could bury him at least. That's why the bag was removed from him - so he would not be mistaken for garbage. Logical? Not very but nothing about the crime was logical. Sometimes criminals are just very, very lucky no matter how stupid they are.

Monday, June 25, 2007

What about the forensics?

Comments by a forensic pathologist to the Abolish list:

"That Doctor DeVore is trying to sell junk science to the jury. His opinion here is not based on fact, not based on personal observation, and not even based on a valid set of statistics. Given the estimate of a fetal age is based on several parameters such as weight (not possible here), length (probably not possible here) and ossification centers (that may be possible, but with a wide variation), all estimates have to be iffy. Each fetus grows at a different rate; for example, my second son was born at about six month's gestation, weighed just under 1 kilogram but was 55 cm long. Other fetuses can also display anomalous parameters.

Where did this "expert" come up with the conclusion that he use an "average" of two or three estimates, and come up with a conclusion to even a reasonable medical possibility (note that the law requires a "reasonable medical certainty" in most states, and a reasonable medical "probability" in other states) in all medical opinions. If California follows Daubert, his testimony would be laughed out of court. It would be hard to accept even under FRE section 700 and following.

The prosecution here must be desperate to try to get in such raunchy evidence. As it stands now, we will never know who killed Ms Peterson unless there is a confession. First the Simpson case, now this circus; what has happened to the courts in California?"

G M Larkin MD


Abolish Archives

"Read Hicks v Oklahoma, 447 US 3 - Conviction cannot be based on conjecture alone.

The people do not have
  1. a place of death (the indictment may come from the wrong jurisdiction);
  2. a cause of death ("maybe she was strangled";
  3. a time of death ("maybe December 24th".
  4. a weapon of death ("maybe this or maybe that."
They cannot prove the corpus delicti in the fetus's death, or make a reasoned estimate of how mature the fetus was.

The state did not allow a highly competent forensic pathologist to testify for the defense, a pathologist who would seriously challenge both the fetus and whether it had an independent existence.

While the state does not have to prove motive, Mr Peterson's raunchy affair and demeanor doesn't make him a murderer; he was convicted on moral grounds rather than evidence.

If I remember correctly, circumstantial evidence is a powerful tool -- if there is no other plausible reason to explain an occurrence. If the explanation favors the defence, the jury MUST determine it for the defense -- the so-called Sanhedrin Rule, or the Golden thread.

This points to "reasonable doubt"; a commodity too often lost is our court today. With regard to your question, could it be that the jury reached a compromise -- guilty, but with a life sentence?

The judge's firing two jury members the way he did is also a wee bit questionable; could they both be holding out for acquittal?

I agree with you that there was no evidence linking Peterson to the crime, and insufficiency of evidence will loom large in an appeal. Having not read the transcript, there might be other errors to work with.

Today, forensic evidence must be rigorously analyzed and challenged on virtually every word.

The determination of whether the fetus/baby breathed is certainly open to challenge, and it is possible that no conclusion can be made, even with the most sophisticated tests.

Again reasonable doubt. I do not know if Peterson is de facto guilty or not: the people have not proven it to my satisfaction."


Forensic Pathologist

Abolish Archives

Here is a summary of Daubert:


The Daubert Supreme Court decision suggests four questions that judges should consider in determining whether an area or field of science is reliable enough to be used in the courtroom. The decision says this list should not be regarded by judges as "a definitive checklist or test," opening the door for judges to employ criteria of their own.
  1. Is the evidence based on a testable theory or technique?
  2. Has the theory or technique been peer reviewed?
  3. Does the technique have a known error rate and standards controlling its operation?
  4. Is the underlying science generally accepted?
What, of the evidence offered in Scott's case, qualified under these rules?

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Those Cement Weights

It seems to me that this whole case comes down to the cement weights. If they never existed, what is the prosecution theory? If they could produce those weights, it would be the end of the case.

Look at all of the items they took from the house, the warehouse, the truck and the boat. Not one had a molecule of evidence on them - even the infamous pliers with one partial hair were useless to them. So all they need are those four 8 or 10 lb weights. Big, made of cement, metal bar embedded in them, easy to find. Yet after spending an incredible amount of money searching for them, how many did they find? None.

Now they may say that they are in some other area of the bay. Then their theory that Conner's body came from Brooks Island is junk. Either the weights are there, or the body can't be tracked back to Scott's location (and since there is no proof at all that Conner was ever in the sea such 'tracking' attempts are without merit).

According to the prosecution, Scott had 90 lb of cement. Subtracting 8 lb for the weight he did make leaves 82 lb. The prosecution alleges he used 32 lb to make 4 weights.

But no authority can be found to confirm that 32 lb or even 82 lb would have held Laci's body down for more than a few days. They carefully avoided the question and let everybody jump to the conclusion that this was correct. However all of the anecdotal evidence I have found states that this was quite impossible. Two iron cannon balls is the prescribed weight for a man (5 foot tall and 100 lbs would be typical - in the days of sailing ships). I would expect that this would be over 130 lb needed to weight down 100 lb of body (my estimates) -- an 8" diameter cast iron ball runs about 70 lb. It should be noted that this assumes that the burial will be in deep water and since the ship would not even slow down for the burial at sea no one would know if the body stayed down or not. In shallow water, the body can bloat up by as much as three times so an additional 350 lb (including a safety margin of 44 lb) would be needed -- or fifteen 24 lb cement blocks, which would have sunk the boat.

The weights are the key, but can't be found. There is no proof they exist, no proof they ever existed, no proof Scott could or did make them. So how do you convict a man based on evidence that does not and can not exist?

Scott is supposed to be the greatest criminal master mind in the history of the world - the only man who can kill and then move the body repeatedly all without leaving the slightest trace for forensic experts or for dogs. So how come he acts so foolishly? Why would he make 4 or 5 extra weights and space them out so carefully as to leave 5 circles (allegedly)? If he made them one at a time, why didn't the circles overlap? If he made 5 at once where are the molds? And if he made 5 weights at once did he buy 5 dollar store buckets? Then why didn't he buy a $1 drop cloth to put on the trailer? Or some of the plastic bags in the warehouse? Or newspapers? He's supposed to be a criminal genius, right?

What killer ever makes weights ahead of time? I know of no other case where this happened - in all other cases they grabbed something they had already. Perhaps there are cases where the killer bought something to use as a weight, although I recall none. But I've never heard of a case where someone made weights ahead of time.

IF, however, Scott had decided to be that one extraordinary man who does make weights, why would he not put a piece of heavy wire through the rest of the bag, front to back, and then pour water in the bag and use the whole thing as one weight of 82 lb? The wire would be ready to tie around the body and the bag would be disposed of along with the body. 82 lb would at least be more effective than 32 lb and there would be no mess and no bag to dispose of. The state's hypothesis here is completely ridiculous - as was almost all of their case.

If Scott had planned this as the prosecution alleges, he could have purchased anonymous cement blocks and used those as weights. Two would weigh 48 lb - more than his alleged weights he supposedly went to the trouble of making. And they could not be traced back to him.

There were no weights. He is innocent.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Investigation: What do we know?

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Where exactly was Laci killed? What is the proof?
  • When exactly was Laci killed? What is the proof?
  • Why exactly was Laci killed? What is the proof?
  • What exactly was the way that Laci was killed? What is the proof?
Now ask yourself how you can be certain of guilt when you don't know where, when, how or why Laci was killed and where the prosecution could not find any evidence of guilt.

Even the prosecutors and police knew he was innocent. That is why they avoided any tests that might have proved Scott was innocent, preferring instead speculation without any evidence to back it up. Look at what they did:
  • First they tried desperately to prove he wasn't at the bay. They failed.
  • Then they tried to find traces of homicide in the house. They failed.
  • Then they tried to find traces of homicide in the truck. They failed.
  • Then they tried to find traces of homicide in the boat. They failed.
  • Then they tried to find traces of homicide in the warehouse. They failed.
  • Then they tried to find evidence at the bay. They failed.
  • By then they were so desperate that they listened in to his phone calls to his attorneys. They learned nothing.
  • They deliberately had all of his private, constitutionally protected conferences with his lawyers held in a 'line up' room, one with a one way mirror and a listening system. (His lawyers have evidence strongly suggesting that they were being watched during those meetings, and ex employees of the department have claimed that it was not unusual for the MPD to listen in to such conversations).

Finally, when the bodies were found, months later, dumped on the shore, they picked them up without sending a forensic tech or a forensic entomologist to check the dump sites out. I have found no evidence that they looked for footprints even though the baby was found immediately adjacent to a walking track. They then used the little they had and spread a one week trial out over 5 months to try to make it appear as if they had actual evidence of Scott's involvement. They had none. To this day there is none. So much for 'proof'.

The prosecution couldn't find even one molecule of evidence - one item that went to guilt and was incapable of innocent explanation.

What sort of case is based on evidence that doesn't exist?

Friday, June 22, 2007

The 5 "W's" of journalism

The 5 "W's" of journalism: (who, what, where, when, why)

One of the basic lessons for new journalists is the 5 "W's" of journalism (who, what, where, when and why). In the case of Scott Peterson, it is clear that almost all have chosen to assume that the 'who' is Scott Peterson, then arrange the other 4 "W's" to fit that notion. But consider them without that assumption. Let us assume that SP cannot be believed at all, then we have:-

  • When .. was Laci killed? Between Dec 23rd and some uncertain time about 1 month before April 14th.
  • Where .. was Laci killed? No crime scene has ever been found. Somewhere in the lower 48 or out in the Pacific is as close as we can come.
  • Why .. was Laci killed? No reason was ever given. The 'freedom reason' is only a wild and desperate guess with nothing at all to support it. It is circular causation at its worst
  • What .. was the way that Laci was killed? Once again, we have no cause of death, not one thing that even definitively leads to murder as the conclusion.

And yet from these unknowns, those who believe in guilt say they can conclude that the one and only person who could have done it is Scott Peterson, despite the clear fact that it was physically impossible for him to have dumped the body as the prosecution would have us believe and that this was the most ridiculous crime if it was planned at all as the prosecution would also have us believe.

The only way to make this work is to turn it on its head. This is the thought pattern of those who are convinced of his guilt:

  • We 'KNOW' Peterson is guilty, therefore since he could have only killed her at this time that's when he killed her.
  • We 'KNOW' Peterson is guilty, therefore since he could have only killed her in this place that's where he killed her.
  • We 'KNOW' Peterson is guilty, therefore since he could have only killed her in one of these ways (several were offered - none proven) that's how he must have killed her.
  • We 'KNOW' Peterson is guilty, therefore since he could only have this motive ('Freedom') that's why he killed her.
Therefore he is guilty.

This is known as circular reasoning.

What is very clear is that he would have to be the greatest criminal mastermind of all time AND one of the dumbest clucks to walk on the face on the earth. He would also have to be the luckiest man ever AND one of the most unlucky men since Job. He would have to be the most sociopathic person the world has ever seen - despite the fact that all previous evidence shows he is clearly a sociophile.

I also note that the prosecution's entire case stood on a foundation that Peterson was a consummate liar - but also on him telling the truth.

Some dogs just won't hunt.

Compare this to, say, the case of Carlo Ventre and his ex-wife Toni Dykstra. They waged an international custody battle over their daughter, Santina. In 1998, Toni died in Carlo's apartment. He said it was an accident; her family said it was murder.

  • We know where she died.
  • We know when she died.
  • We know what caused her death (blow to the head).
  • We have a good motive as to why she was killed (to prevent her taking her kidnapped daughter back).
There is only one person who can even remotely be considered as a suspect in her death and any reasonable juror must conclude it was homicide.

See the difference?

"I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who."
-- Rudyard Kipling