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Day 10 of the Scott Peterson Trial

This is a partial transcript from On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, June 16, 2004 that has been edited for clarity.

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GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST:  Day 10 of the Scott Peterson double-murder trial began with Laci's mother expressing her disgust with the defense.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHARON ROCHA, LACI PETERSON'S MOTHER:  ... I just think Mr.Geragos needs to stop joking so much.  This is not funny.  There's nothing humorous about the fact that my daughter was murdered.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN:  Joining us from Redwood City is KFI radio's Laura Ingle.   Laura was in court oday.  Laura, tell us what happened today in court.

LAURA INGLE, KFI RADIO:  Sergeant Ron Cloward (search) with the Modesto Police Department was on the stand for the majority of the day.  Now, this is the man put in charge of the search effort for Laci Peterson December 26, 2002, two days after Laci Peterson was reported missing.  He described the painstaking search to find Laci, how he put helicopters in the air, he put horse teams on the ground in the park and put officers on the ground to look through the neighborhood.They went through everything. They went through every street.  They looked in every back yard. They talked about looking under manholes, looking through alleys, talking to sex offenders, talking to transients, doing everything they could to make sure that she wasn't in the neighborhood and try to find her alive, of course.

But then the testimony took a very dark turn when he got into the portion where they turned to the San Francisco Bay and how they started to put divers in those dark, murky waters.  And it was very stormyaround that time. They had to use sonar (UNINTELLIGIBLE) similar devices on the boats, those divers going in under water, going down, plunging down to the sea floor, feeling around to see if they could find signs of a body.

Now, he described that in great detail.  But on cross-examination, defense attorney Mark Geragos (search) was able to talk to him about some other things that came out during the search, i.e., tips that were called in. And weren't there people that, in fact, spotted somebody that looked like Laci Peterson walking in the park on Christmas Eve 2002?  He said yes, they did receive those tips and they did follow up on them.  Therewas also another report that somebody had seen a dog that looked like McKenzie (ph), Scott and Laci Peterson's dog, barking like crazy in an area that was near Scott and Laci's home.  So he was able to elicit some of that testimony from the officer.  And of course, the defense is trying to say that the police did not look at other leads in this case. They instead zeroed in on Scott Peterson right away, allowing the real killers to slip away.

On redirect, Rick Distaso (search) was able to get him back to talking about some of the things that they did investigate. They did call people. They did investigate a store, for instance, where Laci Peterson was reportedly spotted on Christmas Eve. And they went and they talked to those people that worked there,where this sighting allegedly happened. They went through six hours of surveillance tapes but never saw any sign of Laci Peterson.

VAN SUSTEREN:  All right, Laura, stand by.  In a moment, we're going to also be joined by Amber Frey's lawyer, Gloria Allred.  But first, let's bring in the rest of our panel.  Joining us in San Francisco is former assistant DA Jim Hammer.  Former Westchester County [New York] court judge and current Westchester County district attorney general Jeanine Pirro joins us in New York.  Defense attorney Jayne Weintraub's in Miami, and here in Washington is defense attorney Bernie Grimm.

Jeanine, since you haven't -- you've been absent for a couple of nights, let me go first to you.  First, I mean, Sharon -- let's talk about Sharon Rocha going into court, obviously very unamused by Mark Geragos's humor in the courtroom. On a personal note, how do you, as a district attorney, help, you know, a woman -- obviously, her daughter's murdered, and a defense lawyer shows poor judgment with his humor?

JEANINE PIRRO, WESTCHESTER COUNTY, NY, DISTRICT ATTY:  Well, you know, first of all, let me say, good for Sharon Rocha. You know, this isn't theater. This isn't about making jokes.  This is about a family living their own personal nightmare. They've lost a daughter and a grandson, and they are not in a mode offinding humor in this. I mean, we're seeing autopsy photos. We're seeing -- we're hearing about the last minutes of Laci's life, everything that she did, what she wore.

And you know, for a defense attorney, Mark Geragos or anyone else, to try to snap -- to crack jokes, to try to find humor is really inappropriate.  And it's a disrespect for Laci and all the other crime victims and their families. This is not theater. It's not an academic discussion.

VAN SUSTEREN:  Bernie, what do you say on behalf of a defense attorney?   I mean...

BERNIE GRIMM, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Yes. Jeanine's right.  There is nothing humorous about anything being dead, whether you're a homeless person or the president the United States or anyone in between. Not to mention we have a fetus here. However, when a judge tells you, "We're going to be here for a long time," some well-placed humor is appreciated.  And Ms. Rocha may not like it -- and I can see it, and she's a very classy woman for saying that, and I agree with her, but the problem for the government and the state is the jury finds it appropriate and they find it OK. So a little bit of well-placed humor is OK. Style -- you know, Mark and I have different styles. I probably wouldn't be gushing it and ingratiating myself with the jury to this extent, but I think a little well-placed humor in a long trial is OK.

VAN SUSTEREN:  Jayne?

JAYNE WEINTRAUB, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Greta, as you well know and as you've said before, the most important part of the trial starts with jury selection, developing a rapport with the jury.  That's what Mark Geragos has done very well in this case so far.

VAN SUSTEREN:  Wait, wait.  Wait a second...

(CROSSTALK)

VAN SUSTEREN:  Let me stop you right there.  It's one thing to develop a rapport with a jury, butlet's face it, you've got a mother there.  You've got friends of hers. I mean -- I mean...

WEINTRAUB:  Greta, he's got a client facing the death penalty!

VAN SUSTEREN:  And -- well, he -- and he -- and Mark is a good lawyer and needs to fightaggressively for his client.  But when you inject humor and you've got a mother there who's lost a daughter, I mean, that's not -- that's not ingratiating...

WEINTRAUB:  It doesn't minimize the tragedy, Greta.  I disagree with you guys.  I think it does not minimize the tragedy.  He's not making fun in any way, shape or form of the actual homicide or her missing -- disappearance.  What he is doing is injecting levity in a very tense, long, arduous 20-hour day for himself and the jurors.

VAN SUSTEREN:  And Jim -- and Jim, I have spoken to Mark Geragos.  I know that he hasnothing but respect for Sharon Rocha and I know that he wouldn't say anything that would upset her, but sometimes you slip and make a mistake and you forget things, right, and you say things that you'd like to take back.

JIM HAMMER, FORMER ASST. SAN FRANCISCO DA:  Yes, I think you're right.   But youknow, Greta, you were there, and I've been there most of the trial.  He hasn't joked about the autopsies.  He hasn't joked at those moments in the -- my heart is with Sharon Rocha, having, you know, represented the families of murder victims for so many years.  Having said that, the ultimate judge in this case is that jury, and the jury is laughing when he laughs.  The jury smiles at Mark Geragos.  And when it comes time inthree or four months for him to argue the case, they like Mark Geragos and their ears are open to what he has to say.  They're not laughing with Rick Distaso, and they seem -- there was yesterday we can talk about. One of the jurors tried to fall asleep yesterday during the examination, so...

PIRRO:  Yes, but you know what, Greta?  There is a big difference between something that is humorous that's said by a witness on the witness stand, and we all find humor in it. Look, we've all tried cases, long cases and murder cases. But it's inappropriate when you crack the joke.  It's inappropriate when you're so sarcastic that you try to reach the level of humor and you try to draw out some humor from something that's not funny.  And by the way...

HAMMER:  But Jeanine, the jury...

PIRRO:  ... this is not yet...

HAMMER:  The jury...

PIRRO:  ... a long trial.

HAMMER:  Jeanine, the jury is...

PIRRO:  We are in the second week...

HAMMER:  The jury isn't cringing.

PIRRO:  ... of testimony.

HAMMER:  The jury isn't cringing.  The jury doesn't seem offended.  And in the end, they're the ones who are going to vote on guilt or not guilt and whether or not Scott Peterson gets the death penalty.

PIRRO:  I think anyone...

WEINTRAUB:  Jeanine, they've been in jury selection for months already.   It's not -- and it is the third week of trial...

PIRRO:  But not the same...

WEINTRAUB:  ... and it's about...

PIRRO:  ... in jury selection, Jayne!

WEINTRAUB:  ... the fifth month nor Geragos.

PIRRO:  You know that!  Once you're selected, you're put in another room, or you're told to comeback when they complete jury selection.

WEINTRAUB:  No, what I'm talking about -- but for Mark Geragos, Jeanine, he's been there...

PIRRO:  You know what?  Crack a joke on your own time...

WEINTRAUB:  ... working, working...

PIRRO:  ... after work.  Don't do it in a trial, where we're talking about...

WEINTRAUB:  It's human.

PIRRO:  ... the vicious...

(CROSSTALK)

VAN SUSTEREN:  Let me -- let me -- just one final word on this, since I'm going to take us to a break, so I'm going to steal the last word, [and it] is that ultimately, the jury is watching, whether it's Sharon Rocha is laughing, whether Ron Grantski is and whether the Peterson parents are laughing.

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