Wait, Scott, Who?
Unless you were living under a rock in 2002—or too young to remember—you probably know who Scott Peterson is. In 2002, Scott Peterson’s wife, Laci went missing when she was around eight months pregnant. Her disappearance ignited a media frenzy. Not only were Scott and Laci young and beautiful, they were also from a upper middle class neighborhood, working normal jobs and starting out their lives. Many people identified with the couple, and many older people saw their children in the couple. We know from experiences that sensationalized cases with young, upper class, and attractive people, tend to get a lot of media attention—and this case is no exception. In early 2003, Laci’s remains were discovered along with the remains of Scott and Laci’s unborn son, Connor. Scott was arrested shortly after Laci and Connor’s remains were discovered. He was charged with two counts of murder with premeditation and special circumstances.
What Is the Innocence Project?
The innocence project is a non-profit organization that helps exonerate those who have been wrongfully convicted. Often times, this is done by taking advantage of advances in scientific technology. Those who have been convicted decades ago may not have had access to the forensic technology that we have in present day. In the initial case, there wasn’t a whole lot of solid evidence tying Scott Peterson to the murder of Laci and Connor. The Innocence Project may uncover evidence that leads to a different suspect, or rules out Scott Peterson completely. It should also be noted that the Innocence Project may uncover evidence that confirms Scott Peterson’s guilt.
How Certain Are We?
When a person is being tried for murder, it’s the prosecution’s burden to prove that they’re guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. But that doesn’t mean that the justice system always gets it right—in fact sometimes, as proven by the existence of wrongful convictions—the justice system gets it wrong. Regarding Scott Peterson, the bulk of the prosecution’s case was built upon circumstantial evidence. Scott alleged he was out fishing alone at the time of Laci’s disappearance, and it was eventually revealed that he was having an affair with a woman who didn’t even know he was married. While those two things don’t make Scott instantly guilty, they likely caused the police to focus in on him. So, how certain are we that Scott Peterson was the perpetrator? There’s certainly a lot of circumstantial evidence against him—there’s a good reason he was convicted after all. However, there does not appear to be a ton of physical evidence directly tying him to the murder of his wife and unborn son.
What Is Tunnel Vision?
Sometimes police officers get tunnel vision when focusing on a suspect. The latest example of this is the hit Netflix special titled, American Nightmare. Without giving too much away, police accused a woman of falsely claiming rape and kidnapping after she was returned to her home safely by the perpetrator. There was a lot of evidence to suggest that she may have been raped and kidnapped, but because police were too caught up in proving the whole thing to be a hoax, they overlooked evidence that suggested otherwise. It has been suggested that the same thing happened with Scott Peterson. While the circumstantial evidence made him a good suspect, some argue that police have overlooked other promising leads because they were too focused on Scott Peterson.
When a Case Becomes Sensationalized
The truth can get lost when a case becomes too sensationalized. Although many people were frustrated by the secrecy surrounding the Idaho College murders case, keeping the case out of media spotlight is a crucial part of maintaining the integrity of the case. Before a jury sees evidence, the judge has to decide that the evidence is relevant to the case and that it’s credible evidence. Newscasters are not held to the same standard. So if the evidence the police have is leaked to the news, and the news is spouting it, that evidence can reach a juror regardless of whether or not it’s credible—this is one way a jury can become tainted. Keeping the media out of a trial can prevent a jury from being tainted and it can also protect victims, and the families of those who are involved.