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Will Geragos' Statement of a Mystery Woman Harm or Help?

Aired May 12, 2003 - 19:48   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: It was a solemn mother's day Sunday for the friends and family of Laci Peterson, the Modesto, California woman killed allegedly by her husband Scott weeks before she was due to give birth.
Peterson remains, of course, the main focus of the investigation. But last week his lawyer raised a pretty intriguing scenario saying there is a, quote, "mystery witness" who can prove that Laci was abducted and murdered.

For more on that and other news on the case, I want with defense attorney Mickey Sherman who is in Stanford, Connecticut. And in here New York, I'm joined Catherine Crier of Court TV. Thanks for being with us.

Catherine, want to start off with you. Do you to buy this mystery woman?

CATHERINE CRIER, COURT TV: Well, right now we have all sorts of circumstantial evidence that does point to Scott Peterson. All we have is Mark Geragos' statement that there may be some woman who can give us some information about an abduction. So I have nothing to corroborate that. And until I do, I can't put any credence in the theory.

COOPER: Mickey Sherman, though, is there any danger in making that kind of statement? If -- there are a couple of ways to look at it. Could it come back to bite the defense once they get into court?

MICKEY SHERMAN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: It could come back, and only if Mark Geragos just can't deliver on some semblance of this person existing.

You know he just got into the case. This is brand new. And what happens is he's getting tips, he's getting phone calls, he's getting e-mails, he's getting letters, he's getting people coming up to him everywhere saying I know this about this, I know that about that. And he has to follow every lead.

That's what they had to do in the O.J. case as well. And in any case. So he's being barraged by all kinds of tips and all he's trying to follow them through. They may pan out, they may not. The problem is when you go public with it, the public is going to expect you to have something to show for it. COOPER: He's also got thousands and thousands of pages of documents to go through. It's going to take a lot of time. Whose side is time on in this thing? Read an article in "The Modesto Bee" today which basically said this thing could take two years.

CRIER: Delay is always a defense attorney's friend. I think Mickey would agree with that at least 99 percent of the time. Witnesses disappear, evidence can get lost, people forget. So if you're really trying to succeed, you want justice to turn really slowly.

COOPER: And if it fades from the public consciousness, does that help or hurt the defense, Mickey?

SHERMAN: It helps but it ain't going to happen here. This is not -- unless the martians land in Sacramento, this is not going to fade from the public's conscience or from the front pages of the papers around the country, and certainly not in California.

COOPER: But over the course of two years, this thing cannot remain on the front pages.

CRIER: Anderson, just imagine that we've got all the videotape, we've got all the background to replay ad nauseum when this thing comes to trial.

SHERMAN: This is absolutely going be on the front pages. This is what we're going to be talking about unless something more interesting comes along. But we're going to come back to this.

COOPER: Is it in Mark Garagos' interest though to have it try to come to trial quickly? I know you said from the client's perspective, but from his perspective, I mean we don't know what his -- how much he's being paid and stuff, but it can't be his regular fees. He's probably doing this -- part of this is about getting his name out there and making a record.


CRIER: They can no more pay his regular fee and the investigative fees and all this business. There has certainly been a reduced rate. I's bet money on it.

SHERMAN: of course, I agree. But I'm going to tell you, it's not about money. Mark Geragos is not going to look at the time sheets and say I've got to get this case finished by next Tuesday. Mark Geragos wants to win. He wants to win because he wants to beat this case.


COOPER: And in the early days of this thing, I mean you had prosecutors saying this was a slam dunk, a home run, easy case.

CRIER: Well, so was O.J. But also remember, quickly, on the Westerfield case, they tried to pull that. The defense pushed really fast, hoping they could beat the forensic experts to court, that they wouldn't be able to analyze, find enough evidence. And unfortunately they were pushing this case right through closing to find the evidence and get it into court. And the prosecution succeeded.

So that is the bad side on delays. It sure gives the state more time to build a strong case.

COOPER: Mickey Sherman, final thought. In the days ahead, weeks ahead, what should we be looking for from the defense and from prosecutors?

SHERMAN: There's going to be a lot of ups and a lot of downs. There's going to be a lot new surprises. There's going to be a lot of surprises. There's going to be a lot of lows and lopezes (ph) on this case. It's just the nature of the big case.

So we shouldn't get too hung up on Mark Geragos' bear statement that there's another woman there. There's going to be another fascinating twist coming next Tuesday, I'm sure.

COOPER: And it's all going to be in the public eye?

CRIER: It's going to be in the public eye. And what you want to look for is the preliminary hearing, and that'll be coming up in the next 30 days.

COOPER: All right, Catherine Crier, Mickey Sherman, it's always good to talk to you. Thanks very much.


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