Dodging a Bullet

I don't want to sound like a broken record, but each night I am "surprised." Tuesday night did not disappoint me in the "surprise" department.

Under ordinary circumstances, our show is live from start to finish. On occasion we will tape a segment -- usually when there is a schedule issue with a guest. We then "drop" the taped segment into the live show. It does not happen often, but it does happen. Tuesday night we planned to tape at 7:30 p.m. a segment with two members of the 9/11 Commission (search): Sens. Slade Gorton and Bob Kerrey. Since we wanted both members together, we needed to find a mutually good time in their hectic schedules.

I was sitting in my office just before 6 p.m. when one of our Fox News contributors came into my office. I don't think he had ever been back in my office so it was unusual. I looked up and he said, "I have some bad news." I knew that he does not know my family so I immediately thought that it could not be THAT bad. I said, "What?" He replied, "Your guest is here early and he said he can't wait around until 7:30. He wants to leave." I asked, "Who?" He answered, "Senator Bob Kerrey. He is in the green room."

I immediately jumped up and headed for the green room. I moved so fast I am surprised I did not run over the bearer of the news. As I left my office I had no idea what to do. I knew we could not tape at 6 p.m. -- the crew was not ready, the set was not ready (Brit Hume and I share the set and he was in the middle of his live show) and Sen. Slade Gorton was not there. I could understand Sen. Kerrey not wanting to hang around -- the green room is small, dark (too dark to read) and has no windows. It was also not a night to go for a walk on the gorgeous grounds of the Capitol across the street -- it was pouring rain (and has been for days here in DC. We are like drowned rats in this city this week.)

I walked into the green room, introduced myself to Sen. Bob Kerrey (we had never met) and said, "How about I take you to dinner downstairs?" Luckily, he accepted. As it turned out, I was lucky, too since the restaurant in our building is a good one. Most nights, since I work nights, I eat from paper bags, or cartons at my desk. It was a good distraction for me to have a dinner -- on a plate! I usually don't make time for a real dinner.

Plus, it gave me an opportunity to sit down with a former U.S. Senator and member of the 9/11 Commission and have a REAL conversation. As you might imagine, most of my conversations with members of the Senate -- former and present -- are done in five-minute segments on a set. While I enjoy those interviews, it is not the same as sitting with someone for an hour over dinner.

We returned about 7 p.m. and by that time Sen. Slade Gorton had arrived. Sens. Gorton and Kerrey then talked to each other for a few minutes while I went to make up. By the time I got through make up, it was about 7:20 p.m. and the crew had set up everything for our interview.

It all worked out... I dodged another bullet.

On a different note, jury selection in the Scott Peterson case is ongoing. Here are two days of jury selection notes from my source -- not a journalist -- who is in the courtroom daily. We will cover the story when opening statements begin in mid-May but for those of you who are interested in jury selection, read on:
April 12
Three more jurors qualified today, bringing the total to 32.

Jurors who qualified during Voir Dire:

No. 7044: First juror to qualify is a young (20's-30's) Hispanic woman who dated a Police Officer (patrolman) for two years and married him 9 months ago. This woman said she could be objective about testimony from all witnesses, and not give preferential treatment to Police Officers. Harris, for the prosecution, finessed the fact that this woman has not been married to a Police Officer long enough for him to influence her ability to be a fair juror. As far as anyone expressing guilt to this woman, the only one who has is an old coworker, and she since has changed jobs and no longer sees that coworker. This woman assured Geragos that she understood Peterson is innocent until proven guilty, that the burden of proof is on the prosecution, and that she could watch Geragos very aggressively cross-examine Police Officers and can still keep an open mind. When further questioned by Geragos, this woman assured him that she could live with returning a "Not Guilty" verdict, "Because I am fair. I can be open-minded. If he's not guilty, he's not guilty."

No. 7107: The next juror to qualify is a 60-ish civil servant white male with gray hair and beard, who served on two previous juries, and who may possibly work for the VA (Veteran's Administration - not totally sure - but he referenced a Diane Sawyer Show which negatively focused on the VA). The man accidentally left page 3 of the questionnaire blank, so Harris (prosecution) filled in the page during questioning. The man is originally from St. Paul, Minnesota, was raised a Catholic but is now a practicing Episcopalian. On question #82, "The Police are too quick to arrest a suspect in cases were there is a significant amount of publicity or pressure to find a perpetrator," the man answered, "strongly agree," because, "The public demands it. If everyone is on your back, you find a place to hang something." Harris went on to ask the man if the prosecution proved the 3 or 4 elements of the crime, then he (juror) would have to vote "Guilty," and the man answered, "Yes." Harris then stated that a notable omitted element would be "Cause of Death," and without "Cause of Death" could you still find him (Peterson) guilty, the man answered, "Yes." (Note: I guess now we have a hint that the prosecution is not introducing cause of death?) When questioned by Geragos, the man stayed on message, that aside from all the media publicity and expressions of guilt by coworkers, none of this has influenced him. This man could say to his coworkers and to Geragos, "'No!' It's on the evidence. All I'm going to do is listen to the evidence." When Geragos reminded this man about the presumption of innocence, and that the burden of proof was on the prosecution, he replied, "That's why we are such a great nation. Every time justice is served, every time the system works, it enhances my protection as a citizen." When asked by Geragos if he would be stigmatized for voting "Not Guilty" he replied, "I'm a big boy. There's a much more important issue at the table, a man's guilt or innocence. A man's life is at stake." When asked if he knew anybody on the witness list, he replied, "My wife's maiden name is Fry, and I know we have some relatives in the (San Joachin) Valley, but I don't know any of them"

No. 6756:  The third and final juror to qualify today was late 30's/early 40's white female with waist-long magenta/purple hair with black roots, sporting 9 tattoos (one tattoo which was very visible to the public was a picture of a large black man's face - the other tattoo was possibly a cursive "Michelle"). This woman currently works in banking. Initially this woman worked in the medical field, then pursued her passion for the law by gaining employment in a start-up law firm that folded. One day, while in the bank, she asked for a job, and got one! This woman is a mother of 4 boys, has a brother who has been in and out of prison (San Quentin) on drug-related charges, and her mother is a drug-prevention counselor at an out-patient methadone clinic for heroin addicts. This woman told the judge that she would only get paid for two weeks. As the judge was excusing her, Geragos bellowed, "Ask her if this will be hardship?" The woman said, "I'm willing to do it. We've talked about it, my family and I.," and stated she could handle the hardship. When questioned by Harris, for the prosecution, about questions # 81 (police tell the truth) and # 82 (police arrest too quickly in high profile cases), she replied, "Police are human beings. In every field, there is good and bad. There's good and bad and you have to have an open mind to everything." When asked by Geragos about exposure to publicity, this woman stated that she's not a big reader, that most of her information about this case came from TV, but since the questionnaire she has not read or watched anything about this case. When Geragos asked her if prior to the jury summons, had she ever expressed an opinion, she replied, "Anything I've said is not good." The woman then stated she could set the publicity and opinions aside. "I want to (set it aside). This case is very "out there." You have to listen to everything. This is somebody's life. I try my hardest to look at things from all areas. I'm not perfect but I try." Geragos then stated that perhaps she unduly identified with Police Officers, and warned her that during cross-examination, he (Geragos) will be extremely aggressive with them to ferret out the truth." She replied, "God, I hope so."

Jurors who were excused during Voir Dire:

No. 4475:  Small, Asian woman in her 50's - Excused when asked, "Can you ever see yourself voting to execute another human being?" answered, "It would be extremely hard for me." When pressed if she could vote the death penalty, answered, "No, I couldn't."

No. 6122:  A 50-ish Filipino Male with a notable accent, fully completed voir dire, when Geragos asked to be heard. The potential juror was escorted out of the room, and Geragos expressed concerns that this man had radically changed his answers from the time of the questionnaire, "He writes one thing and tells us something else." Even though the prosecution explained that perhaps the change in answers was due to total honesty on the juror's part due to a language difference, Judge Delucchi agreed with Geragos, and stated, "It gives me some pause on why he changed his answers. What was his motivation? What happened between the time he filled out the questionnaire and now?"

No. 7150: A dowdy, 40-ish Russian immigrant woman who currently works in a nursery. This woman emigrated from Russia to the US in 1992. This woman previously conducted medical research in laboratories, but changed careers after having children. The voir dire process was almost completed when Geragos (familiar with Russian Law by where a client is guilty until proven innocent) asked this woman if, "Just because my client is sitting at that table, do you have any suspicion that he is guilty?" "Yes," she answered. "How much?" "About 30% suspicion he is guilty," she replied. When pressed further by Geragos, the woman stated she wanted to see Peterson take the stand in his own defense.

No. 7041: 50 year old white woman with long grayish blonde hair in a nice black pants suit could not impose the death penalty. ""Personally, I could not take another life. That's God's job." Geragos added to the record that this potential juror could not decide on Peterson's guilt, was not prejudiced for guilt, and had not formed an opinion.

Jurors who were excused by Stipulation:

No. 7056:  p19, a 109 - "I don't believe in the Death Penalty" - checked weakly oppose. Geragos put on the record that the juror also said there is not enough info to decide
No. 6754: Thinks client is guilty; expressed opinion that Peterson is guilty. Father is a Border patrol
No. 7192: Client is guilty; Q: Can you be fair? "No, I'm not really sure I can do that."
No. 6907: Thinks the client is guilty.
No. 6899: Thinks the client is guilty.
No. 6928: Thinks the client is guilty.


This morning court stated with a closed meeting in chambers with Judge Delucchi, the prosecution, the defense, Scott Peterson, and Kevin Bertalotto, an Investigator with Stanislaus County's DA's office.

When Juror #29308 underwent voir dire on March 30th, Geragos dropped a bombshell on her asking of she'd bragged about "passing the test," getting on the jury and having the opportunity to "get Peterson and give him his due."

Geragos' office had received a call that previous weekend from a man who had been on a Reno bus trip with this juror (sponsored by the Redwood City Memorial Senior enter) and had overheard this woman bragging about "getting Scott Peterson."

After the bombshell in court, the local Redwood City publications, and even Dan Abrams' Friday Peterson Recap Show, Dan Johnson, a retired San Mateo County prosecutor, stated that five people on that same bus trip had been interviewed, and no one heard the woman say any such thing. One of the people interviewed was a retired CHP (California Highway Patrol) officer.

However, Investigator Bertalotto interviewed the man who called in the tip to Geragos' office and a closed discussion was held this morning in order to allow Investigator Bertalotto to air his findings.

When court convened, Judge Delucchi explained that after the discussion in chambers, Juror # 29308 was excused.

The matter has been turned over to the San Mateo County DA's office to see if perjury charges will be pursued on Juror # 29308.

Another ruling that was handed down by Judge Delucchi is that Geragos is only available for other court appearances on Fridays only, even though other lawyers are demanding Geragos should appear on Wednesday. It seems Geragos has two other trials dovetailing with the Peterson case. One involves an Orange County Armenian mobster having to do with garbage hauling. another case involves fraud.

Jury selection notes to follow later today...

From previous e-mail

Hi Greta - I sat next to you in Modesto during the Peterson preliminary hearing - and I have been going to the trial every day since it started here in Redwood City. (I was the one who offered to fix your computer when you had a virus).

I thought I'd give you a head's up about a bombshell that dropped in court today.

A juror - woman in her 60's or early 70's, heavy set - retired for 6 years from San Mateo county in public works - was undergoing voir dire. Distasso painstakingly asked her to explain all the questions. Then Geragos got up he started questioning her about her questionnaire and got her to explain all the answers. Geragos then asked the juror if she ever expressed Scott's guilt to anyone and she said, "No."

Further questioning revealed the fact that she belongs to the Redwood City Senior Center. Geragos then asked her is she'd recently been on a trip to Reno.

"Isn't it true that on this bus trip to Reno, you were bragging to everyone how you passed the test and got into the jury pool. And isn't it true that you said that if you are picked for the jury, you will be made foreman and that you will then get Scott and give him what he deserves, that you have been following the case for over a year now and you are going to nail him."

"Remember, you are under oath!"

The juror was all red-faced.

Seems like that juror was within earshot of a man also on the bus trip to Reno and that this man overheard juror # 29308 bragging about this and called Geragos' office and ratted the juror out!!

The juror was asked to leave the room while the Judge, Defense and Prosecution talked abut it. Seems like a decision has been made to subpoena the man on the bus and he will appear May 10th. Juror # 29308 was then asked to come into the courtroom and was told to come back May 11th at 9:30.

Most of the other jurors were excused by stipulation because they either were against the death penalty or already thought Scott Peterson was guilty...

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