REDWOOD CITY, Calif. – Scott Peterson's (search) defense attorney claims prosecutors withheld important information until just last week that could clear his client, according to a motion filed Monday.
Defense attorney Mark Geragos (search), citing misconduct, is seeking sanctions against the prosecution in Peterson's double-murder trial, set to start June 1. Peterson is accused of killing his pregnant wife, Laci, and their fetus on or around Dec. 24, 2002.
"Just last week the prosecution turned over reports disclosing an interview with a witness who saw Laci Peterson being pulled into a van by at least two men. This eyewitness, who has been a sworn peace officer, has apparently been known to the prosecution since December of 2002 yet he was only interviewed within the last week," the motion states.
"The witness confirmed his sighting of a woman he identified as Laci and her two abductors. However, the Modesto Police Department (search) chose to ignore this former peace officer's report," Geragos wrote. "This ... clearly establishes that the prosecution's conduct was undertaken in bad faith."
Geragos has contended all along that authorities ignored other leads and focused solely on Peterson. Peterson claims he was fishing alone on San Francisco Bay the day his wife disappeared. The bodies of Laci Peterson (search) and her fetus washed ashore in April 2003, mere miles from where Peterson said he spent the morning of Dec. 24, 2002, on his boat.
Before a sweeping gag order was issued in the case, Geragos suggested that a suspicious van seen in the Peterson's Modesto neighborhood on the day Laci Peterson vanished may have been involved in the crime.
Also in the motion filed Monday, Geragos seeks to call a defense witness — Peterson's neighbor Diane Jackson — whom he claims saw three men and the suspicious van in front of Peterson's home on the morning Laci Peterson vanished.
According to the filing, in an initial telephone interview with police on Dec. 27, 2002, Jackson stated that she saw "three short of stature, dark skinned" men in the front yard of the Peterson home on the morning Laci Peterson disappeared. Jackson told police the men were standing near a dark-colored van parked in front of the house, according to the filing.
About two weeks later, a defense investigator interviewed Jackson, who repeated a similar story about the three men seen in front of Peterson's home.
"Mrs. Jackson said that she had the feeling that they were up to no good," the filing states.
"The prosecution realized it had no direct evidence of Mr. Peterson's having been involved in the disappearance of his wife," Geragos wrote. "On January 17, 2003, the prosecution utilized Dale Pennington, an unqualified hypnotist ... to hypnotize, and thereby disqualify Mrs. Jackson."
Prosecutors later hinted that they would not call Jackson as a witness. Judge Alfred A. Delucchi ruled that another witness who was hypnotized by Pennington could not testify because Pennington was not qualified to perform the hypnosis.
"From the two statements given by ... Jackson prior to hypnosis, it is clear that ... Jackson's testimony possessed exculpatory value," Geragos wrote. "The prosecution, which had already focused solely on Mr. Peterson, learned that Mrs. Jackson had potentially witnessed the crime and that her testimony clearly implicated persons other than Mr. Peterson."
Geragos wants the court to allow him to call Jackson as a defense witness, to enter into evidence her statements made to police and to defense investigators prior to being hypnotized or for the judge to grant "any other relief the court deems necessary and appropriate to further the ends of justice."
A telephone message left for prosecutors Monday was not immediately returned.