The first sentence of a book often sets the tone of the author’s work. In Matt Dalton’s exercise in futility, Presumed Guilty, his first sentence reveals (perhaps unintentionally) the reason his book fails as a treatise proclaiming Scott Peterson’s “factual innocence”:
The jury moved into the jury box.
Yes: the jury.
The jury at Peterson’s trial for murdering his pregnant wife, Laci, 27, decided his guilt. Not obsessed television viewers, not the author, not the press, not the Modesto police that investigated and arrested the defendant, not the crowd that gathered in outrage outside the Stanislaus County jail when Peterson was arrested, and not the media. The jury in Redwood City, California, heard all the testimony, was privy to the voluminous exhibits and documentation, and given instructions on the law and its obligation to it.
Dalton, who worked for Peterson’s defense team for less than six months, should have read his first sentence and realized, as an officer of the court, what his role was in this case. He was merely an investigator hired by the defense team, and a temporary one at that. His duty to his former client, to the California Bar, and in the service of justice was to protect confidentiality and adhere to the judge’s orders. By releasing this book, he violated any number of rules of ethics and insulted readers’ intelligence in the process.
Peterson’s highly publicized but woefully misrepresented trial was the most important aspect of this case and closed or negated all the alleged holes that Dalton accounts in his book. For chief defense counsel Mark Geragos to overtly ignore exculpatory evidence that Dalton claims existed would have been the height of incompetence. While I may think Geragos is a pretty bad lawyer (and a fountain of comedy fodder), I don’t believe he would intentionally omit anything relevant that would have helped acquit his client; real proof of that would have meant disbarment.
As a former prosecutor, Dalton is keenly aware of the laws of evidence. He knows that none of his allusions to a third-party defense had any merit. Otherwise, there would have been a showing at the trial. His book is, at best, glorified tabloid fodder with no nexus established between the behavior of local thugs and dubious statistics on satanic cult activity in the Modesto area and Laci Peterson’s murder. Over a third of the repetitive and irrelevant material is devoted to discussing disparate criminal activities in the central valley area and anecdotes about cults; yet, with all the investigation techniques at his disposal, Dalton never finds a single probative issue that would have withstood the scrutiny of a court of law.
The book is filled with misinformation and inaccuracies, not least of which are Dalton’s statement that the baby’s body was cremated (it was not; he was buried with his mother) and that Amy Rocha had pizza and watched a movie with Laci and Scott the night of December 23. More disinformation, out-of-context exerpts from police reports, anonymous witnesses who are never directly quoted, and impotent defense spin render this book, for those with even a passing acquaintance with the case, a complete farce.