Judge largely rejects DNA testing request by Scott Peterson in bid to prove innocence

A San Mateo County judge on Wednesday rejected all but one of convicted killer Scott Peterson's requests via the Los Angeles Innocence Project for DNA testing on certain items in hopes of proving he didn't kill his pregnant wife.

Judge Elizabeth Hill ruled that Peterson's attorneys can test duct tape found on Laci Peterson's pants after her body washed ashore in Richmond. But the judge rejected requests to test a mattress found in a burned van in Modesto and other items sought by the defense for testing.

She said some of the items were no longer available for testing or there were issues with "chain of custody." 

Her ruling largely  coincided with arguments by Stanislaus County prosecutors who argued that circumstantial evidence cemented Peterson's guilt in the killings of his wife Laci and their unborn son.

On Wednesday, Peterson appeared via Zoom from Mule Creek State Prison. He wore a blue jail jumpsuit and laughed as he confirmed to the judge that he could hear her.

His sister, Susan Caudillo, brother Joe Peterson and sister-in-law Janey Peterson sat in the front row of the gallery.

"There's no direct evidence in this case linking Scott Peterson," Paula Mitchell, director of the LA Innocence Project, said as she began her argument in court. "This is an exercise and search for the truth. We are trying to find out exactly what happened." She said the defense is trying to find evidence that has been "overlooked, missed or hidden."

She told the judge, "There are just too many unanswered questions, Your Honor."

Mitchell wants approval from the judge to test a blood-stained mattress found in a burned-out van near the Modesto airport. She says Modesto police failed to investigate whether the blaze was related to the case. Prosecutors say no blood was found on the mattress.

The defense also wants to test items found near the bodies that were recovered from San Francisco Bay and items from a burglary across the street from the Petersons' home in Modesto.

Peterson's attorneys say the evidence is available and in a condition that would permit DNA testing, "with an established chain of custody." 

 Original trial prosecutor David Harris from Stanislaus County urged the judge to reject the motion for DNA testing, saying the defense's argument is "flawed and legally correct" and that Peterson's attorneys were feeling entitled to DNA testing. The burglary and burned-out van has no connection to the double murder, he said.

"The People know the truth. The People know that Scott Peterson is guilty of killing his wife and unborn son," Harris said.

"There is no do-over," Harris said, adding Peterson has shown he can't be trusted based on his statements to investigators, which he called "lies after lies after lies."

Harris said the defense has failed to explain why Peterson had predicted it would be the first Christmas without his wife and why he had conducted searches on his computer of tides in San Francisco Bay 

Scott Peterson's attorneys want DNA testing to be done on a bloodstained mattress found in an orange van. Photos: court case 

Peterson is serving a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole after a jury convicted him of killing Laci Peterson and their unborn son Connor in 2002. 

Laci Peterson's body surfaced along the Richmond shoreline in 2003 after Modesto police say Scott Peterson took her body aboard his boat and dumped it in San Francisco Bay. 

Peterson maintained his innocence throughout the case and said he had been going fishing in the bay.

The Christmas 2002 disappearance of Laci Peterson drew national headlines. 

With evidence mounting against him, Peterson did a sit-down with Court TV anchor and former KTVU reporter Ted Rowlands and pleaded his case to the public.

The trial was held in San Mateo County because of extensive publicity in the Modesto area, but Stanislaus County prosecutors pressed their case against Peterson before the late Judge Alfred Delucchi in Redwood City.

Henry Lee is a KTVU crime reporter. E-mail Henry at Henry.Lee@fox.com and follow him on Twitter at @henrykleeKTVU and www.facebook.com/henrykleefan