"The autopsy doesn't have to have, for instance, a bullet wound in the head in order to know that if somebody threatened somebody, they have done things to them in the past, they make up stories to explain where they were supposedly on the night of the incident, people saw them going to the location, people saw them coming back," said law professor Richard Kling of the Chicago Kent College of Law.
However, because the autopsy does not say how Laci Peterson died, the prosecution will still have some work to do to make their case, he said.
"Somebody is going to have to come in and testify that what caused the death is a-b-c, blunt instrument, stabbing, shooting," he said. "More significantly, somebody's going to have to talk about the manner of death — they're going to have to classify it either as an accident, or a homicide or suicide and they're going to have to do that somehow."
The grisly new details could fuel speculation as to whether the baby ever lived outside the womb, which defense attorneys could use to undermine the prosecution's case against Scott Peterson, Laci's husband and the father of the child they had planned to name Conner.
The prosecutors handling the case said Thursday that since the autopsy was starting to be leaked to the media, the whole report should be released. They filed a motion late Thursday to unseal the autopsy.
Kim Petersen, a spokeswoman for Laci Peterson's family, said on Thursday that the family would trust the prosecutors' judgement about whether the full reports should be unsealed, but they were horrified by the leaks of details from the autopsy reports.
However, Superior Court Judge Al Girolami ruled tonight that both autopsy reports should remain sealed and said releasing the information could prejudice public opinion before the trial.
The judge also indicated that he may issue a gag order preventing both sides from speaking to the media.
While the defense and prosecution dispute what the latest revelations might mean, experts also appear divided.
When asked what the tape on the bodies might mean to the case, Robert Pugsley, a law professor at the Southwestern University School of Law in Los Angeles, told ABCNEWS Radio: "This 8-month-old fetus was the direct intended victim, as well as the mother, of the homicidal activities of the murderer.
"This is a clear indication that the state is perfectly justified — indeed, I think, obliged — to pursue the double-homicide case which they've already laid," he said.
But Dr. Robert Goldberg, a forensic pathologist in Marietta, Ga., said Thursday that there are a lot of unanswered questions involving the tape, making it too early to tell if it means the baby was killed, or who the killer is.
"It could have been picked up as some artifact in the water," Goldberg said. "The child could have been dead before this occurred, and this could just be a connection to keep the child weighted down."
Royal Oakes, a Los Angeles-based attorney, told ABCNEWS the tape revelation could present possibilities for the defense.
"A defense attorney's strategy, faced with this kind of bizarre evidence, is essentially going to be, 'What does this have to do with my client? What evidence is there that Scott Peterson did these things?' " Oakes said.
Prosecutors Dismiss Defense Theories