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Peterson Weeps at Autopsy Photos of Dead Wife's Fetus

No evidence she had given birth before her death, a doctor testifies.

September 17, 2004|From Associated Press

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. — Scott Peterson wept Thursday while jurors in his double-murder trial looked at autopsy photographs of his dead wife's fetus displayed on a large screen.

Laci Peterson's fetus was expelled from her decaying body after her death, a forensic pathologist testified.

Dr. Brian Peterson, who performed autopsies on Laci and the couple's fetus, a male they had planned to name Conner, testified there was no evidence Laci had given birth before her death. Her uterus had not returned to more of a normal size as is typical after a woman gives birth, said Peterson, who is not related to Laci or Scott Peterson.

"That means Ms. Peterson was pregnant and the baby had not been delivered when she died?" asked prosecutor Dave Harris.

"That is my opinion," Peterson replied.

Peterson said no cause of death could be determined for Laci Peterson or the fetus.

At times, his testimony seemed contradictory.

"It was her death that caused Conner's death while he was still in the uterus," Peterson told prosecutors.

On cross-examination, however, the doctor acknowledged he could not determine whether the fetus had been born alive. He estimated its age to be 9 months.

Prosecutors claim the fetus was expelled from Laci's corpse, but defense attorneys say the baby was born alive and murdered later, which they say proves their client couldn't be the killer.

Prosecutors are trying to prove that Peterson killed his wife on or around Dec. 24, 2002, then dumped her weighted body into San Francisco Bay.

The remains of Laci Peterson and the fetus washed ashore in April 2003, not far from where Scott Peterson says he launched his boat that Christmas Eve morning for a solo fishing trip.

Defense lawyers maintain that someone else abducted and killed Laci as she walked the couple's dog after Peterson had left for his trip.

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