Reporter's Notebook: Peterson Trial Scene

Out my window you can see the twinkling lights of the San Mateo Bridge a few miles away. The weather changes here by the block; the wind comes in some areas, the marine layer in others. Still, the heat seems to bake both outside and inside the courthouse.

In every direction, down every diagonal street, you can find TV trucks, parking tickets waving from under dry and cracked windshield wipers. Reporters, photographers and people who have just come to gawk scatter about, walking in every direction as court continues inside.

It seems there are more breaks and days off than actual testimony, as one person recounts the old saying, “Only in California.”

I am just a visitor, a frequent one at that, this being my 10th time covering the Peterson story. And I see many of the same people who spent months in Modesto, an hour and a half to the east.

But this is the peninsula, not the central valley. The people, topography and weather are decisively different … but the seriousness hasn’t changed a lick. The families of Scott and Laci make the pilgrimage every morning, leave for lunch and then return for the afternoon session.

They don’t get along anymore, and it’s Scott Peterson’s (search) sister who makes small remarks as she enters the courthouse. On this day she refers to Amber Frey's (search) compelling testimony as “a sideshow”; later she says, “There’s nothing new here.”

The families are joined in the courtroom by a plethora of media personalities, many recycled from other cases that have also captured the country's eye. We are represented by a couple of the best, Stan Goldman and Greta Van Susteren. They get a seat, but few others do.

On Day One of Amber, more than 250 members of the general public line up to get a shot at one of the 28 other seats passed out to the general public through a courthouse lottery.

Their line is not far from Frank. Anyone who has ever covered a major event of any kind in Northern California would be hard pressed to ignore the amiable Frank, or to get anywhere near him without being enveloped by his monotone diatribe.

Frank stands about 5 feet 7 inches and weighs no more than 150 pounds, dark black thick plastic sunglasses included. His tan long-sleeve wrinkled shirt flaps open more than it should, his familiar black cardboard sign ever prevalent over his shoulder.

On his sign are six lines of gibberish, each line a different color: blue, and pink, white. Today he is used by the pool camera to help photographers get their shots and focus their cameras as everyone waits for court to end. Frank remains happy; he gets so much non-broadcast time that he runs out of conspiracies to spew. This day he focuses on Andrew Jackson’s connection to the Peterson murder. He says “intergalactic scientists” gave him laryngitis and “brainwashed” him.

He is one of several interesting people who have become part of the circus that now resides outside the Redwood City Courthouse (search).

Despite the craziness, the long hours, the interesting people, the captivation by the general public, not lost is the tragedy that brings this case to the Bay Area.

There are times Laci’s mother quietly cries as she listens to testimony. There is a sickness that sticks deep in your gut as autopsy photos and gruesome testimony are entered.

This is what has become of the Scott Peterson double-murder case with the end still far off in the distance.