MURDER TRIAL Defense team to question Peterson's former mistress
After a while, Peterson seemed aware that their calls were not private.
KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS
REDWOOD CITY, Calif. -- Scott Peterson's defense team will begin today cross-examining Amber Frey, the prosecution's star witness whose taped telephone calls portrayed Peterson as a lying cad who appeared to care little about his missing pregnant wife.
As he had in Frey's four prior days as a witness, prosecutor David Harris allowed the Fresno, Calif., massage therapist's recorded conversations with Peterson to detail on Tuesday the couple's brief affair.
And as they had before, the tapes cast Peterson in a troubling light for defense attorneys, revealing that he had secretly planted birthday gifts for Frey and her daughter on the very day his son was supposed to be born.
Peterson directed Frey on Feb. 10, 2003, to a bagful of gifts he left for her in a hospital parking lot in Madera. Prosecutors showed jurors photos of the Norah Jones compact disc, birthday card, necklace, a silver box and wildflower seeds she received.
Peterson sounded excited and even happy on the tapes as he guided Frey, 29, through his "clandestine" plan to pass along the presents for her birthday on Feb. 10 and that of her daughter 10 days later. Absent in the call was any mention of the once-anticipated birth of his child.
At the time, Frey had been under nearly constant media scrutiny after staging a press conference on Jan. 24, 2003, to announce that she had dated Peterson, 31, while the former fertilizer salesman was married to Laci Peterson, 27.
Frey went to police on Dec. 30, 2002, saying she met Peterson Nov. 20, 2002, and that he had said on Dec. 9, 2002 -- 15 days before Laci vanished -- that he "lost" his wife. Laci was about eight months pregnant at the time.
The remains of Laci, and her unborn son Conner, were discovered along the California East Bay shoreline not far from where Scott Peterson told police he was fishing the day she disappeared.
For weeks Frey taped Peterson's gushing calls as police and volunteers searched for Laci. The woman's family finally learned about Peterson's mistress on Feb. 16, 2003, a day before a tabloid story about the affair was to hit newsstands.
End of recordings
The recordings ended Feb. 19, 2003, Frey told jurors Tuesday.
"I think right now for me, Scott, and really everything that has happened in the last 50-plus days for myself and the family and you and everything that's going on right now, I think it would be best if you and I didn't talk any more until there's a resolution ...," Frey told Peterson in the final taped call.
"Yeah, I agree with that," Peterson said. "You're right."
In the weeks prior, however, Peterson seemed to be aware his conversations were not private. He called Frey from pay phones and asked to meet her in person to talk, a request she denied.
Frey and her tapes have caused more damage to the defense than any witness called since the trial began June 1, legal analysts following the case said. What's more, Peterson's attorney, Mark Geragos, must be careful in his questioning not to further persuade jurors that Frey is just another Peterson victim, they said.
"I think he should accentuate the positive and try to eliminate the negative," said Stan Goldman, a Loyola Law School professor. "He should emphasize over and over how Scott said he had nothing to do with this."
Geragos would be wise to steer clear of, or at the very least, tread lightly on Frey's personal life, Goldman said.