REDWOOD CITY, Calif. – Defense attorneys in Scott Peterson's (search) murder trial tried Monday to show that the police investigation was shoddy and designed from the start to implicate him.
Defense attorney Mark Geragos (search) also suggested Laci Peterson could have been kidnapped and killed by someone other than her husband, including three "dark-skinned" men seen in the couple's neighborhood.
In a rambling cross-examination of Detective Allen Brocchini (search), Geragos asked about several tips police received early in the investigation, including one that Laci was being held in a storage bin about 30 miles from Modesto (search).
Brocchini said he knew of the tip but did not have much information about it.
Geragos said police flew over the area with a helicopter equipped with a heat-seeking device and discovered what could have been a sign of life, but officers never searched the area.
Peterson, 31, is accused of murdering his pregnant wife on or around Dec. 24, 2002, then sinking her body in San Francisco Bay (search). Defense lawyers say he was fishing in the bay when Laci Peterson disappeared and that someone else abducted her near their home as she walked the dog, holding her captive before killing her and dumping her in the bay to frame Peterson.
Geragos asked Brocchini about a report that a man of Pacific Island descent, described as dark-skinned, had tried to kidnap a 15-year-old girl a few days before Laci disappeared.
The detective said he never followed up on that tip.
Witnesses have said they saw a van with three "dark-skinned" men in the Petersons' neighborhood around the time Laci vanished. The defense has continually brought up the detail, trying to show police ignored leads that did not point to Peterson.
Geragos also questioned the detective about a burglary at the Petersons' home on Jan. 19, 2003. Brocchini testified that a woman admitted robbing the Petersons' home and said she was infatuated with Scott Peterson.
The detective acknowledged asking the woman her whereabouts on Dec. 23 and Dec. 24, 2002, suggesting he had suspicions she could have been involved in Laci's disappearance.
The woman told Brocchini she had been visiting her ex-boyfriend and some of his friends, men of Hawaiian descent. Geragos again alluded to suspicious "dark-skinned" men in the neighborhood.
Brocchini acknowledged he did not follow-up with a friend of the woman who provided her alibi because he believed the friend after talking to him by phone.
Earlier Monday, the judge admonished police for violating a gag order by publicly criticizing the defense.
Under cross-examination by Geragos on Thursday, Brocchini admitted deliberately deleting from his report a witness account that could be favorable to Peterson.
On Friday, Modesto police Sgt. Ed Steele told The Associated Press that Brocchini omitted the material because it is in other police reports provided to the defense. "It's Geragos' spin," Steele told the AP.
All parties in the case are bound by the order that prevents them from talking.
Judge Alfred A. Delucchi called a Modesto police captain from the gallery Monday to stand before him. "This has to stop," Delucchi said. "Go tell the chief that he's going to have to sit on his folks ... or there's going to be trouble."
Outside court, Peterson's sister-in-law expressed optimism.
"Scott needs his life back. People need to realize he's not getting off because he has a good attorney. He's getting off because he's innocent," Janey Peterson said.
Laci Peterson's stepfather, Ron Grantski, griped about Geragos' attacks on police and his theories about other suspects.
"If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, you baffle them with bull," Grantski said.