Saturday, December 18, 2004

Scott Peterson, Ed Gorman, The M's

When O.J. was first arrested I asked my late friend Bob Samoian, who was an Assistant District Attorney in Los Angeles, what he thought about the case. He said this: "He's guilty but he'll walk." He was right.

Now we have Scott Peterson. According to a dozen of his peers he's guilty of murdering his wife and in so doing preventing his son from being born. His sentence: death.

Frankly, I think he did it. And I think he could have gotten away with it if he'd kept his big mouth shut after the fact. But I still have problems with the trial and the sentence (though I admit I didn't follow it as closely as I did the horribly disappointing O.J. debacle).

First, we don't know how Laci died. Second, we don't know when she died. The presumption is that she was killed right before Scott went fishing and dumped in the bay while he was supposedly enjoying the angler's art. Maybe he did. Most likely he did. But can anyone say for certain he did?

What about the cause of death? Police speculate she was strangled or smothered. But they don't know. For the sake of argument let's say she and Scott had a spat that escalated. He pushed her and she fell, or she fell on her own, and somehow died. He panicked and decided to dispose of the body lest he be blamed for murder.

Is this likely? I don't think so, it is speculative. But so is the official theory. If you're going to find someone guilty and sentence him to death I'd prefer there was less speculation and more facts.

Then there was the post-sentencing interview with the three jurors. They seemed to consider it very important and telling that Peterson remained stoic during the trial. Is that their idea of proper jury deliberation? Some people are just unemotional. And you have to consider that by the time the trial got under way Peterson had months of dealing with cops and lawyers and the press and it's easy to imagine that all the emotion was drained from him by then. Judging him guilty by reason of his demeanor is a travisty.

So, while I'm confident the result is correct, I'm very leery of the manner in which this verdict was reached. Call it poetic justice. But legal justice? I have my doubts.

On a happier note, allow me to recommend Ed Gorman's new western, BRANDED. The story deals with a town full of people with their own physical and psychological brands, from birthmarks to a burn-ravaged face to self mutilation born of religious guilt. There are few normal people in an Ed Gorman western; rather, everyone has some kind of cross to bear, some hidden secret, some fatal character flaw. Because of these their actions and motives are hard to figure and the plot constantly surprises one by shifting directions in ways you can't see coming. Indeed, it seems like every time the protagonist finds deliverance he gets his pins kicked out from under him and you wonder how Ed can possibly pull the rabbit out of the hat. The suspense elements should appeal to any mystery lover yet the book doesn't forget it's a western.
I think Ed is on the cutting edge of the modern western and I recommend his books wholeheartedly.

I see the Seattle Mariners just bought a couple of high-priced players. Let's hope they pan out better than Cirillo, Spezio, and Aurelio did.


Bill said...

I agree about the Peterson case. I think the guy did it, but I don't think there's a shred of real evidence to prove it. If I'd been on the jury, I could never have voted to convict because of the "reasonable doubt" thing.

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