Since virtually all of you disagree with me about something, I thought I would give my pitch again, and then let you read the e-mails from viewers on the topic who disagree with me. (And yes, after reading my pitch and the e-mails you may still disagree with me! Frankly, all the disagreement has me wondering if I might be wrong ... but I only said "wondering" since I am not yet convinced!)
Yesterday the judge in the Scott Peterson case let the DA present evidence that about 3 weeks after Laci disappeared, Scott added hard porn to his TV satellite services (and it was discontinued mid February about one month later.)
I think it was a mistake for the DA to present it and legally wrong for the judge to allow it. By making what I believe to be a mistake, the judge risks, if Scott is convicted, that the case will be reversed on appeal. In other words, the DA and the Judge just "gave" Scott an appellate issue —something that a prosecutor and judge never want to do.
Here is why I think the DA and judge may have made a 'reversible error:' The law saws that we convict people on evidence of guilt and not because we don't like someone. The prosecutor is obliged to present evidence that tends to show guilt - in other words information of "probative" value - but not allowed to "trash" an accused for the sake of trashing and poisoning the jury against the accused. Each piece of evidence the DA produces need not be total proof of guilt but can be pieces of a puzzle.
Not all information the DA seeks to show the jury, however, is necessarily allowed in. If the judge believes that the evidence is introduced to show the accused is a BAD person (someone you should not like), rather than to prove guilt, it should not be allowed in. If the Judge believes that the information the DA seeks to introduce is of minimal value of proving guilt versus the risk that it will unduly influence the jury because it makes them hate him, the judge should keep the evidence out.
In the Peterson case, the jury probably does not like Scott — and for good reason. At a minimum, we know he betrayed his spouse and is a liar. The question the jury must decide — is he also a murderer? Does the fact that he watches porn really help prove murder?
This is a very important question for the judge to answer. Or is there a risk with the information about the porn that the jury will think Scott is a creep or more of a creep than it did earlier and thus convict him because they don' t like him? The judge must weigh the "value" of the evidence against the "risk" that it is just going to make the jury hate him. Juries must convict on actual evidence of guilt — not because someone is a creep.
It is very easy to dislike Scott. It is the judge's job to be very careful the jury never convicts for the wrong reasons. Even if there are good reasons separate from this porno watching to convict Scott, if the judge lets it in, the court of appeals could later reverse the conviction for allowing in evidence that has minimal probative value but high risk of prejudicing the jury against Scott. Why risk this? Is the evidence that important? I don't think so.
And finally, the DA should also be vigilant. A DA should never take a risk with evidence and put in everything he can find if it may result in a reversal later. Trials are expensive and guilty people go free when this is done. A DA should play it safe and go with strong evidence — not take wild chances.
Now having said this, here is what you viewers say — many believe that the porn does tend to show Scott is guilty of murder and was correctly admitted by the judge. (By the way, my husband, also a lawyer, disagrees with me on this! We spent an hour after I got home last night debating the legal point.)
E-mail No. 1
I'm a big fan of your show and usually agree with you. However, I think you're missing the point as to why the prosecution wanted to introduce the x-rated cable channels. I believe Laci Peterson contracted with the cable company in 2001 and intentionally excluded the adult channels. Then, in January 2003, Scott Peterson added the adult channels because he knew of Laci's demise. It's my opinion that the prosecution was merely trying to show that Scott was involved with her death by his actions. I don't think it was their intention to further damage his reputation. Who cares if he watches x-rated programs, it's the fact he knew she wouldn't be returning.
I think Bernie is a hoot and should be a stand-up comedian!
E-mail No. 2
Fieger is right and you are wrong in regard to the probative value of Peterson ordering hardcore porn channels just two weeks after Laci was reported missing. This evidence is relative because it further demonstrates the likely motive, that being Scott wanted to pursue a particular life style and Laci was in the way. Baby Conner would have been a disaster for Scott, who very much wanted to be a "player", but was being hindered in this by having a wife, and particularly a wife about to give birth. Amber Frey was not the real motive for this self-described "horney bastard", for I believe Scott would have tried to establish a "stable" of regular consorts. Laci meant nothing to Scott, but a promisculous lifestyle meant everything to him. Scott murdered Laci to liberate him to pursue unhindered the kind of life he wanted for himself. The ordered porn channels further demonstrates how self-centered Scott is, and goes directly to motive, and therefore the jury should hear this evidence.
E-mail No. 3
You do an excellent job and I really like your attorney pals. It is informative and entertaining.
I do, however, respectfully disagree with your viewpoint regarding the porno issue. It does go to state of mind and there is a BIG, BIG difference between watching ESPN and Porn if you think a loved one is missing.
Example: When my son was ill, I watched a lot of news shows to keep my mind off of the moment to moment worries as to would he get well again. I couldn't even think of having sex with my husband because I was too upset. If Scott could think about his "pecker" at a time when his wife was missing, he would have not been upset one bit about his wife. Thereby his entire
behavior on TV with the media, putting on how upset he was just an act.
Watching ESPN could get your attention "on" to something else. Watching
porn would have the purpose of getting attention on "yourself" for gratification. Could you think of that act if someone you loved was missing and maybe dead? How worried would you really be? Big, Big difference between the two.
Keep up the good work!
E-mail No. 4
I just watched your show and I don't understand why no one could understand what the one attorney was trying to say. It sounded reasonable to me. It doesn't necessarily have to be a porn channel. It could have been any channel. The example the other attorney gave was ESPN and ESPN2.
Okay, lets use that example then. Say that during their entire married life, Laci did not want ESPN in her house. Never watched it, never wanted it and made her husband clearly aware of how she felt about it. Now, lets go to what happened.
A couple of weeks after Laci disappears, Scott decides to not only order ESPN, but ESPN2 as well. He discovers that the police are coming with a search warrant for his house and he cancels it.
Now why does he do this? Consciousness of guilt? He must have known that his wife was not returning or else why would he distinctly go out and order a channel that his wife would clearly object to? Not only that, why would he make all those calls to his girlfriend Amber knowing that his wife might see the long distance bill? I think the answer is very obvious.
So you see, it really didn't have to do with the fact that the channel happened to be porn. It could have been any channel. It goes to the fact that Scott was not worried about making any excuses to his wife. He knew she wasn't coming home ever.
E-mail No. 5
Regarding Scott Peterson's ordering of hard core porno after Laci disappeared, couldn't it be maintained by the prosecution that because he ordered this porno after her disappearance he was not concerned that she would return and discover billing for these channels and hence did not expect her to return? If he in any way anticipated her return he might have been worried about her disapproval and anger. Seems to imply that he knew she wouldn't be back. Pretty damning in my opinion and a valid point for the prosecution to make
E-mail No. 6
I totally disagree with your statement that it should not have been brought out that Scott was watching porno. There IS a difference between watching ESPN and porno. Sports is general entertainment. Porno, however, is meant to stimulate the sexual urge. Who, in their right mind, that loved their spouse, would be thinking about sex when their spouse is missing and may be dead? This just tells me that he did not care to find her.
E-mail No. 7
Hi Greta -
For once I don't agree with you. I see the porn issue as highly damning. It looks like Peterson is going, "Ding dong the witch is dead—-yippeee—-party-on!!!"
Do you have something you'd like to say to Greta? Please write to her at email@example.com!
Watch On the Record with Greta Van Susteren weeknights at 10 p.m. ET