CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Panel Discusses Laci Peterson Case
Aired August 12, 2003 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight: The remains of Laci Peterson and her unborn son are examined by Scott Peterson's defense. They hired two of America's most renowned forensic experts to do it, Drs. Henry Lee and Cyril Wecht. What did they find? And what will this mean for the murder trial? We'll ask Ted Rowlands of KTVU, on top of the Laci Peterson case from day one; Court TV's Nancy Grace, the former prosecutor; defense attorney Chris Pixley; clinical psychologist Dr. Robi Ludwig, a frequent Court TV commentator; and forensic pathologist Dr. Werner Spitz. They're all next on LARRY KING LIVE.
Let's first check with Ted Rowlands of KTVU, our reporter on the scene, who's covered this case from the get-go. What's the latest, Ted?
TED ROWLANDS, KTVU-TV: Well, Dr. Lee and Dr. Wecht were in Martinez, California, where the remains have been since they have been found in Contra Costa County. They were there yesterday, and they were given an eight-hour window by the court to exam the remains, take photographs and take tissue samples. They used about three of those eight hours, and then they left. Afterwards, they didn't say anything. Geragos did answer a few basic questions but cited the gag order, didn't want to go into much, and basically just spouted off the credentials of his two experts.
But having those two there spoke volumes to how serious the defense is taking this portion of it. You think back before the gag order, they were looking at the remains, specifically of the baby, as a potential break for them because they believe that there's evidence there that the baby was handled possibly outside the mother. And this was their opportunity to take a look at the remains and do their own testing.
KING: Dr. Spitz, a famed forensic pathologist, medical examiner for Macomb County, Michigan. He served on committees investigating the assassination of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, was an expert witness in the O.J. Simpson civil case.
When you are hired, Dr. Spitz, by the defense, do you come in objectively or not?
DR. WERNER SPITZ, FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST: Yes, I do. I do. Well, if I had the opportunity to see a body, work it up, do an autopsy or not do an autopsy, but study it, I will come to court and testify what I saw.
KING: So you -- exactly what you see is what you testify. SPITZ: Well, yes.
KING: Yes. Nancy Grace, is this a good sign for the prosecution or a worrisome one?
NANCY GRACE, COURT TV: Well, it's neither. Larry, I think that the defense would be derelict in their duties if they did not get their own medical examiner and scientific team. As a matter of fact, Larry, very commonly, as a former prosecutor, my first line of attack on a defense expert would be, You never even saw the body, did you. In fact, you're basing all of your opinions based on what you read in my medical examiner's report. So this is a preemptive move by Mark Geragos to prepare for cross-examination of these experts. And he got some heavy hitters, too.
KING: Yes. Chris Pixley, why two?
CHRIS PIXLEY, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, I think the fact of the matter is, in this particular situation, Larry, Dr. Henry Lee and Dr. Cyril Wecht have different disciplines and different talents. Henry Lee is a criminalist, and Dr. Cyril Wecht is a forensic pathologist. So one of them is going to be focusing on the "whodunit" question and trying to either identify or at least eliminate the possibility that the suspect or the defendant in this case is actually responsible. The other one is going to be focusing more on the actual physical cause of death and the precise nature of the death. And I think that's why they're both involved.
KING: In a June appearance on this show, I asked Dr. Lee about some details being reported then on Laci and Conner's autopsies. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP - JUNE 9, 2003)
KING: Catherine Crier of Court TV saw the autopsy photos, and she reported that Laci's remains are in devastating condition, major internal organs, major limbs gone. She reported that Baby Conner's remains appear very much intact. What does this tell you forensically.
DR. HENRY LEE, FORENSIC SCIENTIST: Well, that tells us the fetus was somehow protected, either in body of Laci Peterson, or the baby was separated or (UNINTELLIGIBLE) protected certain fashion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Dr. Ludwig, does psychology come into any of this, when you're dealing with medical examinations?
DR. ROBI LUDWIG, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: Well, especially since we have celebrity pathologists on the case, absolutely, because they're so well known. They come into our homes. People feel like they really can trust what they have to say. The jury is also going to feel that way. They're very well-credentialed. They know their way around the jury and the courtroom. And as we see with Mark Geragos, who similarly knows how to deal with the cameras, he really single-handedly changed the conversation of the Scott Peterson case when he started talking to the media. So it can have a profound impact.
KING: Ted, why did it take some time before this approval was granted?
ROWLANDS: Well, there was some bickering as to the details of how this was going to take place, and it just simply took time. But outside, after the exam, Geragos did mention that he believed that it happened in a timely manner. There was some problems today, however, and it seems like some bickering may have taken place at the state crime lab in Ripon.
According to most folks -- a couple of folks that were at the lab this morning, Geragos and his team, Lee and Wecht, showed up, presuming that they were going to examine some other evidence. However, nobody from the district attorney's office showed up for an 8:00 o'clock appointment, so their visit was limited and they left. And according to some folks that were there, they were a bit upset by the conduct. They blamed the district attorney's office for playing ball. So there's definitely some animosity going on here. But as far as why it took a long time for the first exam, Geragos sort of backed away from that and said that he was happy with the timing.
KING: Dr. Spitz, how scientific is this? How is it -- is this arguable, or can we have two forensic experts who are -- take opposite sides of how a murder occurred?
SPITZ: Well, I suppose that is a possibility, that there will be opposite sides. However, in regards to what was said before, the two parties -- that is, the defense and the prosecution -- did not have equal time and equal opportunity. One saw the bodies right after they were taken out of the ocean after four months in the water. The other had to wait another four months, when decomposition and refrigeration and dehydration further damaged the body. So you have two different approaches here, which is, in my view, a detriment for the defense because they don't have the same -- actually, you might say they don't have the same body. It is -- in four months such deterioration it is likely that the body may be thought of as a different element.
KING: Good point, Nancy?
GRACE: Well, you know, Scott Peterson was arrested back in April. Let's see. April, May, June, July, August. That's five months they've had to get their own examiner in there. The state did not oppose this. The state went along, stipulated to this independent examination. And I certainly don't think you can lay that blame at the state's door. If any blame is to be laid at all, it is at the defense's door for this delay.
But Larry, you showed something really important, and that was that bite from Dr. Henry Lee. You've ever heard the phrase, "Loose lips sink ships"? Don't worry, Larry. Cyril Wecht and Henry Lee -- everything they have ever said on air -- and Wecht has actually attacked Scott Peterson's theory on air -- will be played back on cross-examination for this jury. KING: Chris Pixley, is that right?
PIXLEY: Well, absolutely. Nancy's correct. I think Cyril and I have actually gotten into fights about the evidence in this case. But the fact was, that was before Cyril or Henry Lee had had an opportunity to examine the body.
I also think that Dr. Spitz is absolutely on point. The amount of time that's gone by between when the body was recovered and the examination by the defense team is going to be significant. We saw on the O.J. Simpson case that Dr. Lee, of course, did attack the state's investigative techniques. Look for him potentially to do that here, as well. But it's a problem for the defense.
I would also point out, though, Larry, Nancy suggests that if anyone is at fault -- and I think it's a fair suggestion on her part, but that if anyone is at fault, it's the defense team for not getting their own examiners in there more quickly. Understand that under California law, you don't have an absolute right to conduct your own autopsy examination. So this was something that they were either going to have to negotiate with the prosecution or they were going to have to go to the court and ask, and the judge, in his own discretion, could have denied them that opportunity.
KING: Let me get a break and take some -- we'll be taking calls in a little while, as well, with more of our fascinating panel and their discussion about this seemingly never-ending, intriguing case. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK GERAGOS, SCOTT PETERSON'S ATTORNEY: It was as smooth and as -- performed as well as could be, under the circumstances. Other than that, there's not much else that I can say because of the protective or gag order.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Dr. Ludwig, you mentioned famous forensics. Since both of these doctors are famous, does that have an edge with the jury?
LUDWIG: It can because we tend to believe people that we hear all the time. We assume that if they're famous and in the news, they know what they're talking about. And there is that charismatic charm, that aura, that does impact a jury and people sitting on the jury. They are going to take that into consideration, and it's probably something they won't even realize.
KING: Dr. Spitz, do some cases have no answers?
SPITZ: Yes. Some cases have no answers. I think this case has answers, but you have to find them. The problem with this case, from the pathology standpoint, is -- remember, water is a body's worst enemy. Four months in the water causes havoc with the remains. I saw on television today a mummy. That -- do not equate that with a mummy. That is not a mummy. This case of Laci Peterson -- this body of Laci Peterson is not a dried mummy. This body is different.
KING: By the way, Dr. Lee...
SPITZ: And the damage has been done and unfortunately will make it very difficult to interpret.
KING: Dr. Lee, in a June 9 appearance on this show, was asked by a caller about what we can learn from Scott Peterson's boat. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP - JUNE 9, 2003)
LEE: I'm sure the prosecution, the police, the forensic scientists probably looking inch by inch, looking for any Laci Peterson's hair, fibers and DNA. Of course, defense definitely should check the boat, should check the truck. And so many times, we found additional evidence. That's why, as a forensic scientist, although you are retained by the defense, sometime will find incriminating evidence more than the police can find. So it's important, again, to check again, to double-check any other forensic evidence available.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Nancy, is he duty-bound, if he finds something beneficial to the prosecution, to say that?
GRACE: Not necessarily. He is not. Now, if the shoe were on the other foot, on a famous case, Brady v Maryland, the state must, under your duty as a prosecutor, hand over anything exculpatory, be it scientific or testimonial, to the defense. The defense is not bound to do that. Why? Fifth amendment not to incriminate yourself. The defense doesn't have to hand a thing over to the state.
KING: But if Dr. Lee is testifying for the defense, he must answer honestly any question asked by the prosecution, right?
GRACE: Absolutely. You know, Robi brought up an interesting subject, Larry, the fact that these jurors will probably have seen Dr. Lee and Dr. Wecht. But you know what? They're going to also remember that they saw Dr. Lee testifying for the defense in the O.J. Simpson case. Now, in my mind, that may be a certain degree of baggage for the defense in this case.
KING: Think so, Chris?
PIXLEY: I don't think so, Larry. And let me tell you why. First of all, the announcement that you're hiring Henry Lee and Cyril Wecht, two of the most famed forensic experts in the country, to come on board on your defense team is an immediate positive. And what it does is it opens, I think, jurors' minds and the public's mind to the possibility that some of the unanswered questions in this case could actually be answered -- time of death, cause of death, some of the more subtle questions, as well.
You know, if there is a potential juror out there who would hold it against Henry Lee that he testified on some of the technical elements of the O.J. Simpson case in the criminal trial, I think what will ultimately matter more is Dr. Lee's sincerity, his testimony, the exhaustiveness of the work that he does. And on that account, you know, there is no one better.
KING: Ted Rowlands, this initially appeared, people referred it to as a "slam dunk." Has that all changed? Is this a tough case?
ROWLANDS: Well, I think that the perception has definitely changed from the beginning, when most of the leaks, if not all of them, were coming from the prosecution side, and really nothing was coming out of Scott Peterson's side, except for Scott Peterson's own statements, which really dug himself a bigger hole. And his attitude was so strange before the arrest. So I definitely think there is a difference.
However, the surveys don't show a huge difference, in terms of opinions, of potential jurors. That is one thing that they'll be discussing and the one thing that the prosecution has now asked to conduct another survey, or a survey, an official one, to see what they're dealing with. So it remains to see how much this has really changed people's minds but -- because Mark Geragos really hasn't said too much, except for the first few days. He's leaked some stuff, or presumably has leaked some stuff before that gag order. But really, he's clammed up, as of late, so it'll be interesting to see how much effect really has been -- has been made.
KING: Dr. Ludwig, is this a tough case?
LUDWIG: It is tough because it's in the media. We hear about it all the time, so it's going to hard to find people that don't have a certain opinion about the case. And also, the odds are not in Scott Peterson's favor. His demeanor was strange. You know, the highest -- you know, we find with pregnant women, the highest form of death is due to murder. Usually, it's through an intimate partner. He had an affair. So he was -- and also, Laci Peterson's family is not backing him. So he looks very guilty, and unless we hear evidence to tell us otherwise, it won't look good.
KING: As we go to break -- and we'll be back, we'll be taking calls shortly -- here was Henry Lee testifying in the famed O.J. Simpson case. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEE: Only opinion I can giving under this circumstance, something wrong. (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
BARRY SCHECK, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: The imprint on the envelope -- could that have come from Mr. Goldman's boot?
If force applied to this surface...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You mean -- was Mr. Blazier (ph) there? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Leading, Your Honor.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sustained.
LEE: Well, maybe (UNINTELLIGIBLE) You all look alike.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Dr. Spitz, they brought in a lot of equipment today. Can you give us, without being too technical, what the equipment is doing?
SPITZ: Well, I suppose they have an X-ray machine, possibly, or -- I can't imagine what other equipment they would use at the time of the examination.
KING: Reports say they were required to use their own equipment, and they brought quite a bit. Do they study bones at all?
SPITZ: Well, they would bring a saw. They would bring forceps and scalpels and -- that's about it. I don't see that there is any special type of equipment -- photography. I mean, they would probably bring cameras.
KING: Would you call -- obviously, with all that water damage, would you call this a difficult exam?
SPITZ: Absolutely. Absolutely difficult exam. Without any question. However, there are still parts here that need to be examined and tested. For instance, bone marrow is protected, so bone marrow needs to be taken and tested for drugs. The bones from the pelvis need to be -- the edges of any damage to the bone needs to be analyzed for trace evidence. If a knife did it, there may be elements from that metal on the bone, at the edges.
KING: Dr. Wecht was on this show on May 29, talking about partial details on Baby Conner's autopsy that had just been reported by the press. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP - MAY 29, 2003)
DR. CYRIL WECHT, FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST: I believe the opening, coming down from the right shoulder, across the right chest, into the top of the right abdomen, is going to prove to be a postmortem artifact. I believe that it's going to prove to be an injury inflicted by a propeller or a part of a boat or a floating object that ripped through that part of the body.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Now, Nancy, that opinion could change, right, after his exam? GRACE: Well, yes. And the argument that he has flip-flopped may not hold any water because Wecht can then respond that he changed his mind once he did the actual examination.
GRACE: You were asking what all was taken into the medical examiner's office. The judge had very careful details and outlines as to what exactly the defense team could do. They could make photographs, even videotape, Larry, X-rays of the remains and to remove a reasonable amount of tissue and fluid. So there were actually carts rolled in today on rollers. And I would imagine that it was all the medical equipment and the recording equipment they would need for this process. Took about three hours.
KING: Ted, what, is there a hearing on Thursday?
ROWLANDS: Yes. The hearing on Thursday will discuss what sort of access the media will have for the preliminary hearing. Of course, Geragos wants the media out entirely. He wants a closed preliminary hearing. And he filed some documentation to that effect earlier this week, which basically used -- instead of precedent from other cases, used precedent from this case, citing the 5th District Court of Appeals and the judge's own gag order, saying that none of the documentation has been released yet, why should it be released at a prelim? Also on Thursday, the judge is expected to rubber-stamp the request from the prosecution to conduct a juror survey to determine whether or not Modesto, Stanislaus County, would be a place to keep this trial.
KING: Will Thursday's be telecast?
ROWLANDS: There'll be a camera in the courtroom. However, it will not be a live feed. It'll be the same situation as we have seen before. But this could be potentially the last time we'll see any cameras in the courtroom, depending on what the judge rules. Everybody, basically, except the media, is against having a camera in the courtroom for the preliminary hearing, which we're hearing may either be delayed or possibly there is a chance -- some legal folks believe that there's a chance that the defense may just waive their right to a preliminary hearing, if they don't get their wish and have a closed one, because that would effectively give them what they were after, a closed preliminary, because they wouldn't even have one. It is a possibility, as well.
KING: Meaning go right to trial?
KING: Let's take a call. Kingston, Ontario, for our panel. Hello.
CALLER: Hi. My question to the panel is, why didn't the prosecution hire Dr. Henry Lee before the defense team did? And was it because of money?
GRACE: Well, I agree with the caller. I thought it would be an excellent preemptive strike to hire Lee, Wecht or Dr. Michael Baden in this case. But they didn't do that, and I would imagine it is because of money. Also, according to the prosecution, the medical examiner, their own local medical examiner has already performed this task. So they've already got enough firepower, as it is.
KING: Next caller is from Buenos Aires, Argentina. Hello.
CALLER: Hello. My question is, if some new evidence surfaces and Scott Peterson is found not guilty -- for example, when Nancy Grace falsely accused the handyman in the Elizabeth Smart case -- will there be any financial recompense for him?
KING: Can he sue if he's found not guilty or if they find other evidence? Can you see for false arrest, Nancy?
GRACE: You can try to sue the state for false imprisonment, and normally, it's not successful. And regarding Richard Allen Ricci -- correction to the caller. I said he was a perfect candidate. He was never formally charged. There was not enough evidence to do so.
KING: And obviously, he didn't do anything.
KING: Chris Pixley, does -- does the defense have -- would you ever sue for false arrest?
PIXLEY: Oh, I completely agree with Nancy. That is a losing cause. In a case like this, even Mark Geragos has made it clear, when he was commenting on the case before being hired on, that there was a reasonable amount -- or probable cause, a reasonable amount of evidence here. And that's really the only test that the state would be required to meet. So if evidence comes forth, if evidence is developed by the defense that establishes Scott Peterson guilt [sic] beyond a reasonable doubt, if they're even able to do that at the preliminary hearing, that would be great news for Scott, but that would be the end of the line.
KING: Dr. Spitz, can you be a great examiner but a poor witness?
SPITZ: Of course. There are lots of people like that. That's like having a great scientist but a poor teacher at the university. Some people are Nobel Prize winners and are still poor lecturers.
KING: We will take a break and come back with a lot more phone calls. We'll reintroduce the panel, as well. You're watching LARRY KING LIVE. Stay right there.
KING: We're back. Let's reintroduce the panel. In San Francisco, Ted Rowlands of KTUV, the excellent reporter who has covered this from the get-go. In New York, Nancy Grace, the anchor of "Trial Heat" on Court TV, a former prosecutor.
In Atlanta is, Chris Pixley.
In New York is Dr. Robi Ludwig, clinical psychologist and regular commentator on Court TV.
And in Detroit Dr. Warner Spitz, the famous pathologist, medical examiner for Macomb County, Michigan. He served on crimes like assassinations of John Kennedy and Martin Luther King. And expert witness in the O.J. Simpson civil case, the case that Mr. Simpson lost.
Nancy, when does the family get to bury the bodies here?
GRACE: Up until this point it had been on hold because the defense had basically an unspoken right to review the evidence and review the body. And make its own findings. I would think at this point, they would be free to bury Laci and Connor.
KING: And Ted, the status of the other lady, Evelyn Hernandez, found dead in San Francisco Bay, eight months pregnant, in July of 2002. The defense has sought access to that murder file. Where does that stand?
ROWLANDS: They were not granted access to the complete file, however, they were granted access to the autopsy photos and the autopsy reports, which were actually public information at this point, anyway. But they did get the autopsy photos? The judge went back, looked at a couple things, had in camera hearing, decided, no, you don't need to see this file, because it really won't help you, but go ahead and take these photos, if you believe it will help you down the line. You should see them.
KING: Lets take a call. Winnipeg, Manatoba.
CALLER: Hello, Mr. King, my question is for everyone, but specifically for Nancy. I find it suspect when a pathologist or criminalist is paid for their testimony by one side or the other in a case. My question to you, how can we be certain Dr. Lee has not sold out for defense for money, as I and several others felt he did in the O.J. Simpson case. Everyone has their price. I would think he would have a vested interest in find in favor of the side which as paid him the top dollar.
GRACE: Well, I have to respond that many people on jurors feel the same way rightly or wrongly. One of the first questions that can be asked is what is your hourly rate and how much are you getting paid for your analysis and for today's appearance. And I guarantee you, it will be up in the tens of thousands. That same question will be asked of the state's medical examiner, he or she gets their usual annual salary from the county government, which is much, much less. And although many of us respect Dr. Lee and Dr. Wecht immensely, that is going to be a sticking point, money. And it will come up on cross exam. KING: Chris, when is an expert an expert. Is he less an expert if he's been paid?
PIXLEY: He's not less an expert if he's been paid, if that was the case, all defense experts would some how be less reliable than state employees who perform their own autopsies for the state. You know, in this case, we're talking about a man who has a department at a university named after him. He has an impeccable record, and impeccable career. He's one in the best of the business, if not the best. So, at the end of the day, to suggest his findings would be tainted by money, at his age, his level in his career, is something I don't think most jurors are going to accept. And the defense will handling that. I think Warner would agree with me, this is not something that's going to be a real problem for the defense team.
KING: Dr. Spitz.
SPITZ: I agree.
KING: You do agree.
SPITZ: You have to have an honest witness. You have to have someone who will come in and relay their opinions in a genuine fashion. You can have crooks anywhere. I don't believe that a scientist will sell his soul for a few dollars.
KING: Is it necessary, Dr. Ludwig, to assume everyone is answer honestly. Psychologically, will jurors assume that?
LUDWIG: Again, when someone is being hired there may be a question, of course, they're going to air on the side they were hired by. However, at the end of the day, it will be who gives the best testimony, who describes the canes the most intelligent way and most meaningful way. And who comes across as the most honest. And the juror will make that very personal decision.
KING: Before we take our next call, Dr. Lee told us on this show last April he thinks the Peterson home will be a big key in the case. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEE: What they are looking for is something extraordinary, let's say they found some blood spatter, on the wall, or they found a bundle of hair and those are so-called not (UNINTELLIGIBLE) hair or (UNINTELLIGIBLE) hair (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Or they found a piece of skin. For example, when we searched the house, sometime we look for a piece of tissue, or something we can link to some foul play.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: South Hadley, Massachusetts, hello.
CALLER: Hello. My question is, this would be for Dr. Lee and Dr. Wecht.
KING: They're not here, so go ahead. We'll ask it of Dr. Spitz.
CALLER: OK. Seeing they examined the body of the baby, I was wondering what their thoughts were of why major organs of Laci's were missing and it sounds as if the uterus was in tact and that's why the baby's remains were protected.
KING: Dr. Spitz.
SPITZ: I can imagine if a propeller damaged the abdominal area or pelvic area of the mother, that organs may be missing. I don't know that there necessarily was a cut in the baby or not. But the baby could have remained in outer row or in the body of the mother for some time longer, after even the abdominal area was opened by the propeller. So, I don't know that you can make much of this. If you know that this is a propeller injury. Remember, though, that a propeller runs approximately 2,000 times a minute. Consequently, there will probably be many more cuts than just one, which were identified as a propeller injury.
KING: San Francisco, hello.
CALLER: Hi. If the defense has found evidence that is bad for Scott Peterson, would they still continue the trial or would they try to plea bargain?
PIXLEY: I don't expect a plea bargain in this case, that's not going to be something that will be offered most likely. The D.A., the state is committed to the case. So, even if you wanted to plea bargain you're not likely to be in a position to do that.
KING: But what if, Chris, what of if you as a defense attorney, come to the determination, not only did your client do it, but you discuss it, approach him, now you want to save his life, because they're going to ask for a death penalty wouldn't you go in to plea bargain for that?
PIXLEY: There's a difference between asking a plea bargain, there's a difference between when you're definitely marching to trial. Yes, you can have this conversation. The practical reality is, in this particular case, the state wants a trial. And they're going to get a trial. That's a virtual certainty.
The question is, what do you do with the evidence?
You have an obligation to your client to provide the best possible defense you can. And he has 6th amendment rights. And as Nancy mentioned, and 5th amendment rights to protect him against the disclosure of more incriminating evidence that may be out there.
KING: Nancy, what if the prosecutor promised not to seek the death penalty if Scott led them to Laci's body?
GRACE: I imagine in that may have happened. And we have seen it happen many times before when the body is an unknown location and victim's family is grieving and mourning and holding out that last painful hope that the victim is still alive. Very often, and we saw it and talked about it right here, Larry. You and I in the little David Westerfield trial when little Danielle van Dam went missing. They pled with David Westerfield to tell them where the body was. And they were going to go with the plea but just before it all went down, the body was found. There, apparently, were negotiations in this case prior to finding Laci and Connor.
KING: We'll be back for more call for our panel don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no question, Dr. Lee and I believe we function as objective forensic scientists, whatever the findings and facts are, that's the way it will play out. We have to wait and see.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with our panel. The caller is in Toronto. Hello.
CALLER: Hi, Larry. I was just wondering if you can please try and tell me, how will Scott Peterson get a fair trial with all this publicity going on?
KING: OK. Let's start first with Chris. Will he?
PIXLEY: Well, that's the goal, and the real question is, you know, whether this publicity in this case will be enough to move the case to another venue.
Obviously, the best opportunity you have for a fair trial, if you're a defendant in a high profile case, is to get in front of jurors that although they may have heard about the case, haven't been inundated with it on a day-to-day basis, given the fact that "The Modesto Bee" runs this story on the front page of their newspaper on a daily basis, there's a very good argument that the people in Modesto may not be capable of acting as fair and impartial jurors.
But, you know, it is a very legitimate question as to whether Scott Peterson or Kobe Bryant or someone in one of these cases that receives daily attention for months or even years can, in fact, get a fair trial.
GRACE: You know, I think that when you say he cannot get a fair trial, you, or people that say that are largely underestimating human nature because Larry, many of us think -- many viewers think they know what happened or they have a strong likelihood in their mind as to what happened. But if I went into a courtroom today and I heard Geragos put it on the line to show me that this guy was not involved in his wife's murder, there was no way I could send an innocent man to jail. Impossible. Much less the death penalty. So what we know right now, we are seeing, as the old term says, through a window darkly. We don't know the facts yet. We have to got to hear it through a witness stand and then make a decision. Not based on what the newspaper says.
KING: But you do agree that some cases need a change of venue.
GRACE: Oh, definitely. When emotions are so heated, that people cannot listen to the facts coming from the witness stand.
KING: Dr. Ludwig, can a fair trial occur here?
LUDWIG: I would hope so, but very often, even though we think we're a country where there's presumption of innocence, often, when it gets to this point, when there's enough evidence the state has to bring charges against somebody, there is a presumption of guilt.
But I agree absolutely with what Nancy said. Hopefully, they will screen the jurors. He has a good defense team. And once the jurors get in there and hear the facts, hopefully they can begin to rethink about the case in a very different kind of way.
KING: Ted Rowlands, as a journalist, what do you think?
ROWLANDS: Well, the judge, in open court, made a reference to the fact that there is a chance that Scott Peterson couldn't get a fair trial anywhere in this state, leading a lot of people to believe that no matter what the numbers are when they come in, this judge will keep it in Stanislaus County because it will be his belief that if you move it, you're just going to incur huge costs of moving the court and the return isn't going to be that effective because of the amount of national publicity here. If you go to southern portions of the state all the way up north, everybody has heard about Scott Peterson.
The defense maintains that is "The Modesto Bee." It is the fact that Scott Peterson lived in that community. People are more heightened. They'll point to the fact when they brought him in, there were people cheering "murderer, murderer," all those things to say that Modesto is different than the rest of the state.
KING: That can be appealable later, can't it, Chris? If you're denied a venue, you can argue that on appeal?
PIXLEY: Yes, absolutely, and I think that in this particular case, you're going to have a very unique appeal. A different argument that's even in the Shepherd v. Maxwell case. It will be an appellate issue if, in fact, a change of venue is denied.
KING: Dr. Spitz, can he get a fair trial?
SPITZ: I believe you can get a fair trial because I have great confidence in the in the jury system. I think jurors will give their best opinion and...
KING: To Philadelphia, hello.
CALLER: Hello. Isn't it true -- for Mr. Pixley -- that the job of the defense experts is -- that they're to do -- is to find any piece of evidence they can to create reasonable doubt and not necessarily to determine the bottom line truth of who murdered Laci Peterson? And the second part of my question is, isn't it clear from the fact that Geragos introduced Henry Lee and Cyril Wecht before they even examined the body show that they're pretty sure that they're going to come back with evidence favorable to the defense?
PIXLEY: I will take your last question first. I think the fact that Mark Geragos is announcing the fact that he has retained Dr. Henry Lee and Cyril Wecht is, in fact, an effort to remind the public that he has the kind of people on board that should give us all pause for a moment to consider. Maybe some of the questions in this case that have been unresolved by the state coroner's office or the county coroner's office can, in fact, be resolved by some of the best in the business.
You know, the other idea that these experts are hired and get their marching orders right out of the gate isn't accurate. I think Dr. Spitz has spoken to that issue. They will give their unvarnished findings to the defense team. And the reality is that if the defense experts don't find in favor of Scott Peterson, don't find the kind of evidence the defense team's looking for, that can be a problem for the defense because now you haven't found yourself a solid testifying witness.
So no, they don't come out of the gate looking simply to protect Scott Peterson. They're looking to solve the mystery, and there are a lot of questions that are unanswered right now.
KING: Indianapolis, hello.
CALLER: Good evening, Larry.
CALLER: I've had a long standing question about this case. I'm curious, if Scott Peterson has ever offered to take a lie detector test to prove his innocence, and if he hasn't, why wouldn't he, to change public opinion?
GRACE: Well, he was asked. I remember Ted and I discussing this way back when at the get-go. In fact, Laci Peterson's family came on your show, Larry, and asked him to end the media circus and to submit to a polygraph and cooperate fully with police. At that time, he came up with the reason that his family didn't want him to, that his lawyer didn't want him to, that it didn't fit in his schedule, on and on and on. And, yes, I think if you take a look at Marc Klaas, who was a suspect in his own child's death, he demanded a polygraph.
So I find that highly suspect. The injury will never hear about it, though. It's inadmissible. KING: Chris.
PIXLEY: Well, the fact is, Scott Peterson had Kurt McAllister (ph) on the case within two weeks of Laci's disappearance. I think a lot of that had to do with the fact that the police were in his home and there was every indication that he was being treated as the prime suspect. And I have to take his word for it that Kurt McAllister did not want him to take a polygraph test. A lack of reliability...
KING: But how about the point is that if you didn't do it, why shouldn't you insist on a polygraph?
PIXLEY: Well, I think that there's every possible reaction to it. But again, the statement that, my attorney doesn't want me taking the test, whether or not that was co-mingled with the statement that his family didn't want him taking the test, I think should be enough for the rest of us. It's not a reliable forensic method for determining someone's guilt or innocence.
ROWLANDS: Yes. Larry....
KING: We'll be back with some more moments. Hold it and I'll have the other chime in. Back with some more moments with our panel. Ted will have a comment right after this.
KING: Ted Rowlands, you were going to say something.
ROWLANDS: Well, about the polygraph and other things that Scott did early on in this investigation. One member of the Peterson family told me that they regret that. In some way, they sort of regret taking out the -- getting a lawyer right away. And they say the reason they did it was because of the way the Modesto police was acting. Scott and the entire family thought, oh boy, they really think that Scott did it. They went and got a lawyer right away. The lawyer said, don't take a polygraph. They listened to that. And they had no idea where this was going in the days and months ahead. And that is one thing, however, that the family member say, that that person at least regrets. Whether or not Scott does, who knows.
GRACE: But hold on, Larry. He can still take a polygraph. There's no reason to regret. He can take a polygraph tomorrow. They can arrange it. So I don't think that the...
KING: What would the state do, Nancy, if he took one and passed it?
GRACE: Well, you know what, Larry, if both parties stipulate that the polygraph will come into evidence up front, it can come into evidence. So if Scott Peterson thinks he can pass, he should definitely take the polygraph and have it come in evidence.
KING: Dr. Spitz, I understand you have to leave us. I want to thank you very much for your insightful evidence. We look forward to call on you again.
SPITZ: Thank you very much.
KING: Thank you. That was Dr. Warner Spitz. He has to leave us. Ted Rowlands, Nancy Grace, Chris Pixley and Dr. Robi Ludwig remain. The caller is from Grand Falls, Canada. Hello.
CALLER: Larry, my question -- Larry?
KING: Go ahead.
CALLER: My question to the panel is, if these two pathologists prove that the baby was killed outside the mother's womb, will they have to release Scott Peterson?
GRACE: Did he say if the baby was killed outside the mother's womb?
GRACE: No. I don't think so. It would depend. If the child was killed outside the womb, postmortem, it was a stillbirth -- I see what he's saying now. Yes, I think that would be a huge arsenal for the defense in this case, but I don't think, based on the other circumstantial evidence it would be enough to release Scott Peterson.
PIXLEY: And the caller's question, Larry, raises an important point. I think a couple of the things that the experts were looking for yesterday, first, whether this was in fact a vaginal delivery; secondly, they also want to know the cause of the disarticulation of all of these body parts, you know, the arms from the elbow down, the right leg from the knee down, the left foot, the head, how did these body parts come to be disassociated from the body? Was it through natural causes, the tides, the currents, and/or the anchors, or were they actually amputated by the killer.
That and this idea as to whether or not the baby was taken out of the womb and murdered will go a long way toward, I think, identifying whether or not this could be something that Scott Peterson did in a limited window of time. He had less than 20 hours to actually commit this crime.
KING: Last caller, Denver, hello.
CALLER: Hi, my question is for Nancy. And I want to know how is Scott Peterson paying for his defense team? And, Nancy, as a person who has lost a loved one to a crime, what are the Petersons going through?
GRACE: They're going through hell. That's what they're going through. Because today, they had to imagine Scott Peterson's defense team handling, touching, viewing Laci and Connor's body. So it's very painful for them. Just a few short weeks ago I saw Laci's mom, and the pain is just below the surface, still all these months later.
Where is he getting the money? At some point, I imagine Geragos will ask, probably rightfully, the state, the county to give them money, but speaking, after going through it myself, it takes a long time for the pain to wear off. And when the trial and the prelims start, it's like pouring salt in a wound.
KING: Dr. Ludwig, do you expect many more revelations, many more things coming out before we go to trial?
LUDWIG: It's hard to know. And I think a lot will depend on whether there are cameras in the courtroom. That has a way on shedding light about all different kinds of other information, about the lawyers and the jurors and the witnesses. So it really depends.
I hope we get more information, because at this point, it's really hard to know what happened for sure. You can do a lot of spin, but you can't say exactly what happened at this point.
KING: And Ted, we got 30 seconds. Thursday again is what?
ROWLANDS: This will be the chance for all sides to argue whether or not to allow cameras in the courtroom, and Geragos will continue to argue to keep that prelim completely sealed and have it without any spectators, no media, no public.
KING: And we'll be on top of the scene. We thank Ted Rowlands of KTVU, Nancy Grace of "Trial Heat" on Court TV, Chris Pixley, defense attorney from Atlanta, Dr. Robi Ludwig, the clinical psychologist, and of course earlier with us through most of the show, Dr. Warner Spitz.
I'll be right back in just a moment to tell you about tomorrow night. Don't go away.
KING: Last night we told you we'd do a show tonight on the royals, but because of developments in the Peterson case, we did the Peterson show instead. So tomorrow night we will discuss the royals. The subject, the full cover and a full issue almost of the new "Vanity Fair."
Speaking -- we have our own royalty. No, not just Larry King. No, we have royalty at "NEWSNIGHT" too. When Sir Aaron Brown, Mr. B, our royal owner of 10:00 p.m. Eastern, 7:00 Pacific takes over. Mr. Brown, the court is yours.
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