Was Laci Peterson's Son Born Alive?

This is a partial transcript from On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, June 2, 2004 that has been edited for clarity.

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AARON HUNGAR, FORMER CONTRA COSTA MARINE PATROL:  This is where the torso was found on Monday, and Conner's -- the fetus's body was eventually found across this channel, towards the housing developments, on Sunday.


VAN SUSTEREN:  Scott Peterson's lawyer, Mark Geragos, spent much of the day focusing on how and when Laci's unborn son, Conner, died.  What clues were left behind on Conner's body?  Forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht, who examined both Laci and Conner Peterson's bodies, joins us from Pittsburgh.  And in San Diego is forensic pathologist...


VAN SUSTEREN:  ... Dr. Michael Baden.

Dr. Baden, first to you.  One of the things that [defense attorney] Mark Geragos said in opening statement is that there was a twine that was looped around Conner's body and that it had a knot in it, and that is to suggest that it was done after the baby was born, as opposed to having Laci in the water and then the baby just naturally coming out of Laci.  What's your thought?  Does that -- does that help bolster the defense theory that he was born alive and murdered separately?

BADEN:  Oh, if Conner was born alive, that would tremendously bolster...

VAN SUSTEREN:  But what about the knot in the twine?

BADEN:  ... the defense theory.

VAN SUSTEREN:  The knot in the twine.

BADEN:  Yes, I think that -- that's going to be argued because the prosecution take on that is it was debris that was picked up while the baby was floating in the water and not something that was knotted by human hands.

VAN SUSTEREN:  Except for one thing is that what Mark said in his opening statement to defeat that argument is he said there's only two centimeters of space between the twine and the body, saying that it could not have come over his head, the baby's head.  What about that?

BADEN:  Well, that's going to be an argument because bodies in water can pick up a lot of debris -- twine, all kinds of material that floats in the water, and get knotted around the body.  This is going to be an argument where one side will say it had to be done by human hands, and that's a home run for the defense if the jury believes that, and the other that this is a baby who was floating in the water at the same time that the mom was floating in the water, which makes it unlikely they were put in on separate days, and wound up on -- near each other.

VAN SUSTEREN:  Dr. Wecht, I know you can't talk specifically because you've actually examined the bodies in this case, but generally if you find a baby under similar circumstances and you find a mother's body under similar circumstances, can you definitively say -- is there a scientific test or analysis -- whether that baby was born alive and murdered separately or whether that baby died as a result of the mother's death?

DR. CYRIL WECHT, FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST:  Well, there are studies that can be performed sometimes if the bodies have not moved into a state of advanced decomposition.  There are some microscopic pathological changes that we would study to ascertain whether or not the baby died as a result of some asphyxiation, let's say, or some other natural disease process.  I can't comment on this case, but you've raised a very good question.  And obviously, these are the kinds of things that the various experts will get into in this case.

VAN SUSTEREN:  Dr. Baden, the disappearance was December 24.  The baby was full term some time in February.  The medical examiner who conducted the autopsy wrote in the autopsy report that the baby was full term when the autopsy was done, or couldn't conclude, you know, when the baby had died.  Is that a mistake by a medical examiner?  Can you eventually tell full term or not under these conditions?

BADEN:  There are ways to look at which bones have ossified.  The different bones become hard at different months.  I don't know if that was done here, but I think from looking at the size of the child or the weight of the child -- babies vary so much that 34 to 39 weeks can be mistaken by just going by the height and weight of the baby.  I don't know how far they went into looking for the skeletal changes.

VAN SUSTEREN:  All right, we're going to have a lot of expert testimony in this case, as the experts battle it out.  Dr. Wecht, Dr. Baden, thank you.

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