Judge Allows Peterson Interviews as Evidence

The jury at Scott Peterson's double-murder trial will be allowed to hear television interviews he did in the weeks after his wife's disappearance in which he discussed the search for Laci Peterson and admitted having an affair, a judge ruled Monday.

Defense attorney Mark Geragos (search) had argued the interviews have no relevance in the case.

"The statements do not amount to admissions or confessions since they relate to collateral matters rather than the crime for which Mr. Peterson now stands falsely accused," Geragos wrote in a court filing.

Prosecutors allege Peterson lied repeatedly during the interviews.

"The defendant gives statements that conflict with those he told police, initially lies about his relationship with [massage therapist] Amber Frey (search), lies about his relationship with his wife ... and makes numerous admissions that evidence his guilt," prosecutors wrote in a Feb. 23 filing.

Judge Alfred A. Delucchi (search) said the interviews can "show consciousness of guilt" and the "defendant's state of mind" and their "probative value outweighs any prejudicial value."

Prosecutors likely will introduce as evidence four TV interviews with Peterson — one by Diane Sawyer of ABC News and three by Northern California stations.

During the interviews, the prosecution alleges, Peterson lied about his relationship with his wife and about being cooperative and forthcoming with police.

In court documents, prosecutors claim Peterson implicated himself through a series of incongruous statements on camera:

— Peterson said he fully cooperated with police and told officers on Christmas Eve about his affair with Frey. Prosecutors claim Peterson denied his relationship with Frey on Dec. 30, 2002 — the day Frey first told police of the affair.

— Peterson said he told his wife about the affair and she was "at peace" with it. But witnesses will testify that Laci Peterson never mentioned the affair, and they "did not perceive any evidence of the affair" in the way the couple interacted, according to a prosecution filing.

— Before their bodies were found, Peterson repeatedly used the past tense when referring to his wife and unborn son. He abruptly corrected himself several times. For example, Peterson said, "She was, is amazing," and, about the son they planned to name Conner, "That was, it's so hard."

Jury selection continues Tuesday and is expected to last more than a month. Opening statements are set for May 17, the judge said Monday.

Peterson could face the death penalty or life in prison without parole if convicted of murdering his pregnant wife and their unborn son.

Authorities allege he killed Laci Peterson (search) on Dec. 23 or 24, 2002. because he was having an affair with Frey, then dumped Laci's body in San Francisco Bay. The bodies of his wife and unborn son washed ashore nearly four months later.

Of 1,000 potential panelists brought into court for the initial stages of jury selection, 683 were dismissed because serving for the six-month long trial would unreasonably disrupt their lives.

Potential jurors will be questioned individually by the judge and attorneys during the next six weeks until a pool of about 60-80 panelists remain. From that pool, the prosecution and defense each have 20 chances to dismiss jurors without explanation until 12 panelists and six alternates remain.

Of six potential panelists questioned Monday, the judge dismissed five of them because, among other things, they said they could not sentence Peterson to death or have already formed an opinion that Peterson is guilty and could not be impartial.

Seven additional potential jurors were dismissed without questioning for the same reasons.

One potential panelist, a San Jose city wastewater inspector, was held over for the next round of questioning, despite Geragos' objections that because the man works to build cases with prosecutors against polluters, he could not be impartial.

"As you might guess, I'm a little concerned," Geragos said. "You seem like a juror I would not want to have on this case."

Geragos indicated last week he would likely seek a second change of venue because of intense media coverage. A Stanislaus County judge moved the case from Modesto after finding an impartial jury could not be seated in Peterson's hometown.

Geragos has not yet filed for a second change.

"What we've decided to do is go through jury selection," he said outside the courtroom, adding he would reevaluate later whether to seek a move.