Geragos also had a prosecution criminalist concede repeatedly that investigators found no blood or any other kind of physical evidence on Peterson's boat or in his home linking him to Laci's slaying. He also put prosecutors on the defensive with allegations that investigators focused primarily on Peterson in his wife's disappearance and neglected other leads and theories.
Early in the trial, Modesto Detective Ray Coyle told jurors that investigators tried to locate more than 300 registered sex offenders and parolees who lived near the Petersons at the time of Laci's disappearance. But Geragos noted that detectives closed several investigations after only one interview or without locating their subjects.
Geragos' ability to turn the opposition's witnesses into his own and stress the lack of physical evidence linking Peterson to the slayings sparked early criticism that prosecutors had blown the case. However, some courtroom observers believed the criticism was premature — and perhaps unfair.
"The initial criticism prosecutors faced was maybe unfair. They have a complicated circumstantial case and it is a case that has to be evaluated as a whole as opposed to its individual parts," said Beth Karas, Court TV reporter and legal analyst who has covered the Peterson case. "These prosecutors are less experienced than Mark Geragos. Mark Geragos also loves dealing with the press and is good at using [the opposition's] witnesses to his advantage."
The prosecution's case gained some momentum when Frey took the stand. From her testimony and her wiretapped phone conversations with Peterson, jurors learned the fertilizer salesman told her he wanted them to be together and told elaborate lies to keep his marriage secret. During one phone conversation — which took place as investigators and volunteers were searching for Laci — Scott Peterson told Frey he was in Paris on a business trip.
"With the Amber Frey tapes, they [prosecutors] were able to paint Peterson as such a despicable guy, that that may have turned the corner for them," said Cron.
In recent weeks, courtroom observers say, Detective Craig Grogan, the lead investigator in the case, boosted the prosecution by giving jurors the first detailed narrative that stitched together the many circumstances that led police to believe Peterson was involved in the killing.
Geragos used Grogan to point out that police failed to follow up on a number of reported sightings of Laci the day she vanished. Still, through Grogan's testimony, the prosecution was able to focus on Peterson's behavior just before his arrest.
Peterson's purchase of a car under his mother's name, change in appearance, repeated lies and the $15,000 cash he had when he was arrested suggest guilt, prosecutors intimated. Peterson, police detectives testified, looked like someone who was trying to elude authorities.
At the end of the prosecution's case, Modesto Detective John Buehler testified that when Peterson was arrested he had a large backpack and an overnight bag stuffed with hunting knives, a water purifier, snorkeling and fishing equipment, a shovel, and duct tape. Peterson also had several changes of clothes, four cell phones, two driver's licenses and six credit cards.