OTR Interviews

Was Laci Peterson's Son Born Alive?

This is a partial transcript from On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, November 14, 2003.

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GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: Laci Peterson was about 32 weeks pregnant when she was examined by her doctor on December 23. That's the day before she was reported missing.

But, today, the defense raised questions whether the remains found were those of a full-term infant, indicating Conner didn't die on or before Christmas Eve.

Let's get more from our forensic pathologists. Dr. Michael Baden is in New York.


VAN SUSTEREN: And in Pittsburgh...

Hello, Dr. Baden.

And in Pittsburgh, we have Dr. Cyril Wecht.

Dr. Wecht, looking at the remains -- this is a terribly tragic case, a tragic scene, but looking at the remains when they were found in April, can you make the determination when that infant died, whether it was closer to Christmas Eve or February 10?

DR. CYRIL WECHT, FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST: Well, as you know, I can't talk about the case, but let me make some general observations.

The answer is that a forensic pathologist who has examined fetuses and newborn infants over a period of many years certainly can make determinations as based upon size and weight.

And then when you have the opportunity to correlate further with clinical diagnostic studies, such as sonograms and so on, then you can be more precise.

So you can't tell to a day or a few days or even a week or so, but within a couple of weeks' period, I would say that one can make a determination.

And I will just make the observation about something which is extant that you and everybody else following this case knows about. Read the autopsy report that is out there with regard to...

VAN SUSTEREN: All right.

WECHT: ... the size of the baby and what the pathologist working for the prosecution characterized the baby...

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Dr. Wecht, let me -- let me -- and I forgot to note -- to tell the viewers in the introduction the reason why you're limited in what you can say is because you have been brought in at least as a consultant/witness to one of the sides -- to the defense side.


VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Dr. Baden, why is it so important in this case to determine when that poor child died?

BADEN: Well, the -- if the child died after Laci Peterson died, it means the child was alive after Laci Peterson.

But I think here every woman who's watching this who had a baby a month early or a month late know that the obstetricians' estimates of time of -- age of the baby can easily be off by four weeks.

And, as Dr. Wecht said, the forensic pathologist looking at the baby does it by size and weight. But some babies full-term are five pounds, some are 10 pounds, and that varies.

VAN SUSTEREN: What does full-term mean? Does full-term mean nine months...

BADEN: Nine months.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... or does it mean -- so it means it's the whole nine months.

BADEN: Full-term nine...

VAN SUSTEREN: It's not just at eight months, even if it's a very healthy fetus -- baby at eight -- at eight months.

BADEN: No, nine months is the general concept, which is about 40 -- 38 to 40 weeks and -- of gestation. But we're off on that. So, if Conner lived longer than Laci, then that's very good for the defense theory of the case perhaps.

But from my evaluation of the evidence and the autopsy reports, the most important evidence is that Conner, the baby, was in very excellent condition when it washed ashore, and Laci was in very bad condition, so it indicates that the baby had to have been in the womb all during the time...

VAN SUSTEREN: Well after...

BADEN: I'm sorry. ... and then was released just before it came to the surface.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Drs. Wecht and Baden, thank you very much. Sorry the block -- segment's so short.

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