Evidence in the Scott Peterson Trial

Evidence in the Scott Peterson Trial

CRJ335 Laws of Evidence

Colorado State University Global

Scott Lee Peterson was charged with first and second degree murder of his wife, Laci Peterson and their unborn baby, Connor Peterson. In 2002, Laci went missing the day before Christmas (History, 2009). When questioned by police, Scott told them that he was fishing at the time of Laci’s disappearance. About a month after Laci went missing, Amber Frey, the woman Scott was having an affair with, called police to explain her relationship with Scott. This information completely dissolved Scott’s “devoted husband” act. During the investigation, police learned that Scott had sold Laci’s SUV, making them believe that he could possibly be trying to get rid of evidence (History, 2009). Laci’s body would be found months later near the marina Scott had told police he was fishing at when she had disappeared.


After her body was found, Scott was arrested; he had in his possession his brother’s passport and large amounts of cash making police suspicion that he may try to run . Scott’s trial began on June 1st, 2004. Prosecutors made claims that Scott had used cement anchors, made with planter pots connected to Scott, to weigh Laci’s body down (Walsh & Finz, 2012). Divers did find these pots in the same marina that Scott kept his boart in. Scott’s attorney’s based their case on the lack of direct evidence, while downplaying the importance of circumstantial evidence (Ryan, 2004). The defense suggested that Laci had been kidnapped, held captive until she gave birth, and then the bodies were dumped at the marina. The prosecution brought forth medical experts who contended that the baby was not full-term and died when Laci died (Ryan, 9/2004).


Physical Evidence

Strand of Hair


Planter Pots

Circumstancial Evidence

Scott’s Changed Appearance

Pornographic Channels added to Cable days after Laci disappeared

Sold her SUV

Frey’s Recorded Phone Calls with Scott

Scent-Sniffing Dogs


Scott was convicted purely on circumstantial evidence in November of 2004. Through the admissions given by Amber Frey, the prosecution was able to prove to the jury that not only was Scott unfaithful, but also a liar (Oxygen, 2019). Proving this would mean that Scott’s credibility and reliability would appear questionable to the jury. Additionally, from the testimony of Laci’s loved ones, the prosecution was able to establish that there were serious issues in the marriage. These issues lended support to the potential motive of Scott murdering his wife and child. As stated before, when Scott was arrested he was found carrying large amounts of cash and a passport (Oxygen, 2019). He was also found to be carrying a camping gear, a pistol, viagra and a map to Amber Frey’s workplace. All of this would not be seen as a sign of innocence to the jury.


Police had implemented the use of search warrants to take Peterson’s vehicles; it is believed that tracking devices were placed on many of the vehicles after they had been seized through these search warrants (Cote, 2003). The impact that the GPS evidence had on the case seems to be very controversial. When Laci’s body was found, police knew they needed to find Scott immediately. They used the GPS on his vehicles to determine that he was in San Diego and worried that he would flee to Mexico (Effron, 2017). Most of the files from the case have been sealed by the defense and a gag order was imposed by the presiding judge, so it is unclear what evidence the tracking devices produced (Cote, 2003). That being said, the use of GPS could have served the prosecution if the GPS showed Scott at a location where evidence was found, if he returned to the bay, or any indicator that Scott was getting ready to leave the country (Cote, 2017).


Cote, J. (2003, September 5). GPS use on Peterson in question. Retrieved February 22, 2020, from https://www.modbee.com/news/local/crime/scott-peterson-case/peterson-preliminary-trial/article3096501.html

Effron, L. (2017, September 12). What police found in Scott Peterson’s car after Laci Peterson’s body was discovered. Retrieved February 22, 2020, from https://abcnews.go.com/US/police-found-scott-petersons-car-laci-petersons-body/story?id=49773987

History. (2009, November 13). Scott Peterson convicted of murder. Retrieved February 22, 2020, from https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/scott-peterson-convicted

Oxygen. (2019, May 10). 10 Of The Most Shocking Facts From The Scott Peterson Case. Retrieved February 22, 2020, from https://www.oxygen.com/snapped/blogs/10-of-the-most-shocking-facts-from-the-scott-peterson-case

Ryan, H. (2004, June 4). Two-timer, yes, but no double murderer: Peterson’s defense lays out its case. Retrieved February 22, 2020, from https://web.archive.org/web/20090228204313/http://www.courttv.com/trials/peterson/060204_ctv.html

Ryan, H. (2004, September 23). Scott Peterson’s unborn son died at time of his wife’s disappearance, expert says. Retrieved February 22, 2020, from https://web.archive.org/web/20090228041931/http://www.courttv.com/trials/peterson/092204_ctv.html

Walsh, D., & Finz, S. (2012, January 26). THE PETERSON TRIAL / It’s hard searching bay, diver testifies / Prosecutors try to show why body wasn’t found. Retrieved February 22, 2020, from https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/THE-PETERSON-TRIAL-It-s-hard-searching-bay-2726703.php

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