As you know, Amber Frey (search) took the stand yesterday for the first time. When I sat down before the trial began, an NBC reporter poked me and pointed to the first row of the courtroom. Since the room was crowded, I had not noticed that Amber was already there — flanked by Gloria Allred and the prosecutor who would be questioning her in a short time.
You could "feel" the anticipation in the courtroom. On the right side of the courtroom sat Laci's family and on the left side sat Scott's family and we, the media and the public, sat behind both.
The seating arrangement resembles a wedding — but this is hardly a wedding. This is a tragedy. So many lives have been destroyed by this multiple death and it is not over.
I noticed the chief Modesto DA in the courtroom but he left after the morning session. The lawyers all wondered in advance of Amber's testimony just how she would be dressed. This may sound silly or petty to you but how one dresses does convey a message to the jury.
Messages to juries are important. Amber wore a dark suit, skirt to the knee. She looked like a responsible and serious woman — not a streetwalker.
Her demeanor was sober. Some said she appeared nervous and I am sure she was. Her voice was strong and she seemed to speak matter of fact — but not in a disinterested manner. In my opinion, she did not seem to have an "axe to grind."
The jury listened carefully. If you watch their heads, you might think they were watching a tennis match. Every time the DA asked a question, they looked at him. When Amber answered, their heads turned to watch her. No one laughed or showed emotion on the jury.
Of course, nothing was funny about anything that happened in the courtroom. I did see many jurors taking notes. If there was any time I thought I could "read" the jury — and this is lawyer voodoo on my part — it is when the jury heard Scott's ridiculous lies on tape.
On one taped call with Scott and Amber, Scott claimed to be in Paris on New Year's Eve. The jury knew this to be false. Scott was far from Paris — he was in Modesto at a vigil for his missing wife. The lie was so bad you could almost feel it in the courtroom hanging in the air. I noticed from time to time Laci's brother shaking his head.
As bad as the lies were — and there were many, and many more to come — the defense did not feel a setback. Yesterday the state proved beyond a reasonable doubt an affair ... but did it add to the state's evidence to prove murder? That is the key question.
If you didn't like Scott before these taped calls, you like him even less now. The lies were that bad! But from the beginning defense attorney Mark Geragos told the jury that they would not like Scott but disliking him is not proof beyond a reasonable doubt of murder. Of course that is a decision ultimately for the jury and there is much more to this trial.
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