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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Police Clear Owners of "Brown Van" of Involvement in Peterson Case

Aired June 3, 2003 - 20:09   ET

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

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We now turn to the day's developments in the Laci Peterson case. Her husband, Scott, of course, charged with murder. And today his attorneys had an unusual request for the public. David Mattingly has details now from Modesto, California -- David.
DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, some new late-breaking developments. All along in this case we have heard from the defense team about the possibility of a brown van, possibly linked to a satanic cult that may have been responsible for Laci Peterson's disappearance.

Well today authorities here in Stanislaus County put out this press release just a few moments ago, saying that they have in their custody that brown van. That same brown van that the defense had been looking for.

But, they say, they have investigated the van, they have searched through the van, they have investigated the owners of the van, the two men who had it, and they say they are not connected to this case in any way and not connected to any crime in any way. So, once again, another impasse, seemingly, for the defense when they claim this brown van was so important to this case.

This also today, the defense team was saying how important it was that they locate some of the Laci Peterson's shoes. They say they have a very credible defense witness who reports finding some of her shoes in his yard, and they are shoes similar to what Laci might have been wearing when she was walking her dog.

We do know that Laci's shoes were among the items taken by the Rocha family last Friday when they entered the Peterson house and set off the alarm. Defense attorneys want Laci's shoes back to see what's missing and to see if they are possibly important to this case. Attorneys for the Rocha family tell us that they are a little bewildered by the interest in the shoes. They say that everything that was taken from the house has been cataloged, and that list is available to the defense attorneys.

Again, this popped up on a day that was very uneventful court hearing, in which no decisions were made regarding search warrants. They've decided, however, to have another closed-door hearing here on Friday, which means Friday is shaping up to be a banner day here in court in the Laci Peterson murder case, with arguments and possibly some rulings on whether or not the public can see warrants, wiretap information, of course, those autopsy reports related to this case -- Anderson.

COOPER: David, let me clear up this brown van thing. The defense said there was a brown van out there, they wanted information. Suddenly the DA's office, the prosecutor's office puts out this release saying we have this brown van in custody. How did they know this was the brown van that the defense was referring to?

MATTINGLY: The DA does not elaborate in its press release, but they say they are certain this is the brown van the defense was looking for. They now have it in their possession. They have thoroughly investigated it, and they're confident this brown van and the people associated with it are not involved in the Laci Peterson case or any other case that might be pending -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Dave Mattingly, thanks very much for the update.

For months now, people across the country have followed every twist, every turn of the Laci Peterson investigation. And now every nuance of the of the prosecution and the defense legal strategies. Yet, as a family spokesperson reminded everyone, when details of the autopsy reports leaked to the media, this isn't just a big story, these are real people's lives. Something to keep in mind.

Joining us from Modesto with her perspective on the case and all of it's ramifications -- and there are many, is Court TV's anchor Catherine Crier. Catherine, good to see you as well.

CATHERINE CRIER, COURT TV: Hey, Anderson.

COOPER: What is the most surprising thing you have heard today?

CRIER: I think the most surprising thing is we didn't get an answer from the judge. It's not always surprising that he withholds a ruling. But we were supposed to find out today and get all of the information about whether or not the search warrants would be released.

I was surprised when in fact Scott Peterson and Mark Geragos did not show up in court and obviously didn't feel the necessity. Either they thought the judge was going to rule their way, or in fact they realized the judge wouldn't have enough information to make a ruling. But I think we were all lined up for naught.

COOPER: We've been hearing Mark Geragos and hearing from Mark Geragos and hearing leaks from unknown sources.

CRIER: Yeah.

COOPER: Huh, yeah.

At this point, though, has the defense become clear yet? I mean, it seems we hear Mark Geragos raising certain ideas. A brown van, a lady out there, a satanic cult. Is this throwing a lot of stuff against the refrigerator and seeing what sticks?

CRIER: You got it. Because you throw Danny in there, or Donny I believe his name is.

(CROSSTALK)

CRIER: ... some sort of drug relationship. So if you don't buy this one, how about this one, how about this one?

But really all they have to do once you come to trial is convince one person out of 12 that it is not being proved beyond a reasonable doubt and somebody else out there might exist. So he's doing actually a very good job of turning the conversation. Up until Geragos came into the game, we were talking about things that pointed to Scott Peterson's guilt.

Now we're all talking about possibility information leading us to someone else. So he's directing the game pretty effectively right now.

COOPER: You know we hear about -- from the defense saying they're going to search for the real killers. To our knowledge, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) are they actually out there searching, tracking down these leads? Or is this sort of a search by press statement?

CRIER: Well, we don't really know, but we do know they have investigators on the job. And if they're being effective, they're going to try to find witnesses, like the one who may have found the shoes in their front yard on Christmas Eve, or the rape counselor who said a victim told her about a satanic cult.

Now whether this information can come into court, whether he can lay the foundation to put it in as admissible testimony is another story. But if he can find something the judge will buy, that's the kind of tool you need to raise reasonable doubt.

COOPER: All right, Catherine Crier, thanks for joining us, good to talk with you as always.

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