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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Judge Denies Request of Scott Peterson's Defense Team

Aired July 9, 2003 - 19:01   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: For the latest on another brutal crime that shocked the community, this one, Modesto, California, the crime, the killing of Laci Peterson and her unborn child, Connor.
Her husband, Scott Peterson, was back in court today, where his lawyer lost ground in the defense effort to make a case that someone else is responsible for the crime.

David Mattingly explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is one of the big questions that keeps the murder case against Scott Peterson in the headlines. If Peterson did not kill his wife Laci and their unborn child, as he claims, who did?

MARK GERAGOS, SCOTT PETERSON'S ATTORNEY: I'm not suggesting right now that we're in there doing the review with you of their file.

MATTINGLY: But Peterson's attorney, Mark Geragos, was dealt a setback in court when he tried to gain access to confidential police files in a San Francisco murder.

The defense wanted to look for similarities in the unsolved killing of the pregnant Evelyn Hernandez. Her body was discovered on San Francisco Bay last year.

Judge Al Girolami, however, ordered the police file to remain sealed, citing the need to protect San Francisco authorities in their ongoing investigation.

MARGARET BAUMGARTNER, SAN FRANCISCO DEPUTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: The case subpoenaed has nothing to do with this case and it would interfere with the open investigation to turn over the file.

MATTINGLY: The Hernandez murder, just one of several of interest to the defense as they build their theory that Modesto police ignored other credible leads in Laci's murder.

Scott Peterson himself remains silent at his latest court appearance. His blue suit in stark contrast to the red jump suit he continues to wear in maximum security.

LEE PETERSON, FATHER OF SCOTT PETERSON: Because of his wife and baby and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) he's anxious, frustrated. (END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTINGLY: But while Scott Peterson remains in jail, all those wire tapped phone conversations he had with reporters may soon see the light of day.

The judge today ruled that reporters will be able to listen to their own conversations that they had with Scott Peterson. It is not known, however, what significance those conversations have on this case -- Anderson.

COOPER: Or perhaps how embarrassing they're going to be for some in the media. Now David, I know you -- I believe your voice is on one of these wiretaps. What kind of a conversation did you have with Scott Peterson?

MATTINGLY: All of my conversations with Scott Peterson were very brief. He was very polite. I was calling to ask if he would offer comment or else actually give us an interview. But at the time he was not a suspect and he said that all his concerns were was that the search should go on for his wife and there was no conversation beyond that.

Very unremarkable and un-newsworthy, actually, at the time.

COPPER: I guess that's good to hear at this point, David.

Let me also ask you, I mean, how big a blow was this for the defense today? Obviously, they hoped and probably still continue to hope to somehow link the Hernandez case to the Laci Peterson case.

MATTINGLY: It's not just the Hernandez case here. Almost since the very beginning of -- beginning with Scott Peterson's arrest, the defense has been trying to claim that Modesto police ignored very credible leads in this case while focusing on Scott Peterson.

They crafted these other theories. This particular case in San Francisco was playing into one of those theories and now that they don't have access to exactly what police have, what sort of evidence they had there in San Francisco, this is a setback to them.

COOPER: David, the defense keeps saying -- Mark Geragos keeps saying that they are out there investigating, as he calls it, the real killers of Laci Peterson.

My understanding is that they moved this proceeding from the public courtroom to the judge's chambers on the request of Mark Geragos, because he said if information came out it might damage their investigation, is that correct?

MATTINGLY: They went into private session today because of the sensitive nation of the information they were discussing in the police files. Mark Geragos also saying that they had some sensitive information to explain to the judge why they wanted to go into those police records. So we did not hear the reasoning why they wanted to go into those records. At the same time we did not hear what police have actually found.

COOPER: All right. David Mattingly, thanks for the update. Appreciate it.

We are joined now by a man who has talked to us much in the past about this case.

Setbacks for the defense in the case of Scott Peterson, today's setbacks, the judge of course, limiting, as David said, a defense effort to tie another case to the death of Laci Peterson and her child.

Also allowing prosecutors to listen to those wire taps of Scott Peterson's phone calls. A lot of people what want to know what are on those wiretaps.

The executive producer of "Celebrity Justice," Harvey Levin, here to talk to us about where all this is going.

Harvey, thanks for being with us. Good to see you. As we're hearing in Los Angeles. How bad a day was this for the defense?

HARVEY LEVIN, PRODUCER, "CELEBRITY JUSTICE": Well, you know, it's an interesting question because on the one hand it's bad that they can't mine this possible defense.

On the over hand, Anderson, I've got to tell you as a lawyer I think that this is kind of a slippery slope if, in fact, Scott Peterson is eventually convicted, that this could be a basis for appeal. An appellate court might say that the judge doesn't -- the judge in some way -- trial judge didn't allow them to mount a proper defense. And this is the basis of many appeals if, indeed, he gets convicted.

COOPER: Well, let's clarify what we're talking about to the audience, because this is another case, another woman, Mrs. Hernandez, was found her body in San Francisco Bay. Obviously Geragos trying to, hopefully wanting to link this in some way to the Laci Peterson case, showing that there is some sort of a ring out there killing pregnant women, I suppose.

LEVIN: Well, Anderson, you've got to understand, it doesn't necessarily mean that the defense has to prove that, in fact, this other possible theory is the real secret behind the Laci Peterson murder. All they have to say is, "Look, we have a right it create a reasonable doubt, and we thought we might be able to do it with this lead." And they wouldn't...

COOPER: Are they no longer able to do that? I mean, basically the judge says they can't have the entire file from the San Francisco police, but they still may be able to bring up some sort of reasonable doubt with this? LEVIN: That's true. But you've got to remember, this is a capital case and judges are very forgiving when it comes to making sure that the defense has every opportunity. Scott Peterson could get the death penalty and judges are very slow to say, "Well, it was no harm no foul."

COOPER: All right. Let's talk about these wiretaps. I know you have some friends in the media who are probably pretty nervous about what they may have said on these tapes to Scott Peterson. Why are some reporters out there scared?

LEVIN: Anderson, I've got to tell you something, this is the story. I have known this for a couple of weeks. There are some reporters who are panicked right now.

Everybody wanted an interview with Scott Peterson and people said things they probably shouldn't have said. I'll give you a theory here. "Gee, Scott, do an interview with me. I'm sure you're innocent and I'll make that clear to people if you sit down and do the interview with me." Or you may even hear somebody flirting with Scott Peterson a little bit to kind of gain his graces.

COOPER: You think there are actually reporters who are flirting with Scott Peterson to try to get him to give an interview?

LEVIN: Anderson, I'm telling you I think you're going to really be stunned if you hear what some of these wiretaps produce. This is a cutthroat business. Everybody wanted that interview. And it's not enough to say, "Scott, I won eight Emmys." I'm telling you. I know. I've known this for a couple of weeks. There are reporters...

COOPER: Harvey, I've got to break in here. Want to give us any names, any reporters you know who are scared right now? I asked David Mattingly at CNN; he didn't seem worried at all. He said they were innocuous conversations, we were just asking for an interview. Didn't seem like David was flirting with this guy.

LEVIN: I didn't say David was. I know two people who were wiretapped and I'm exercising my Miranda rights.

COOPER: Well, it's going to be fascinating. And I mean, do you think it's going to damage -- I mean, there's been so much damage to the credibility, however low that was, of journalists in the first place with this Jayson Blair incident in the "New York Times." I mean, if this is as bad as you think it may be, some of the things that some reporters were saying to this guy, this is going to be another black eye for journalism.

LEVIN: You know, I think it's going to be a huge black eye. I think people are going to really get a peek in to how fierce the competition is and to what people will say in order to get these prize interviews.

And he was the big get for a long, long time. Everybody wanted him, and then you've got to figure out, "Well, gee, how I do convince Scott Peterson that I'm right for this interview." And I think you're going to see things that are going to shock you and certainly shock the public.

COOPER: But now I'm a little confused because I read some accounts that said these things aren't going to be tape -- duplicated by the court and handed out. You have to go in, you have check in, you have to listen to them in wherever it is, in the court or in the police station, wherever these tapes are.

Can people make copies? Are we going to hear these people's voices on television?

LEVIN: I don't know if it will become public. I'm guessing that at some point somebody is going to say, "Look there were wiretaps, there's a basis of public interest here." And I would think that eventually somebody's going to ask a judge to release them publicly.

But if people even get the transcripts -- I'm telling you, Anderson, I've been hearing this for two weeks now. People went all out to get this interview and it's going to be a really interesting peek into what happens sometimes in the media.

COOPER: Yes. It's going to be fascinating. Harvey, are you on this tape?

LEVIN: I swear I'm not. I swear I'm not.

COOPER: All right. We're going to be listening very closely. If we hear a voice that sounds like yours I'm going to give you call.

LEVIN: Welcome to our first city.

COOPER: All right. Thanks very much. Harvey Levin of "Celebrity Justice."

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