REDWOOD CITY, Calif. -- In a blow to prosecutors, a police investigator conceded yesterday that he deliberately failed to mention a witness who contradicts crucial elements of the murder case against Scott Peterson.
Detective Allen Brocchini admitted that he excluded from his reports any reference to a woman who recalled seeing Laci Peterson at the warehouse where her husband stored his small boat.
Prosecutors have said that Peterson hid the recently purchased boat from his pregnant wife as part of his plan to kill her and dispose of the body in San Francisco Bay.
The woman's story provides an alternate explanation for why a strand of hair that might have come from Laci Peterson turned up in the boat. That hair is one of the few pieces of physical evidence prosecutors have presented in Scott Peterson's trial.
Prosecutors allege the hair fell from Laci Peterson while her body was in the boat after Scott Peterson murdered her in their Modesto home on or around Christmas Eve morning, 2002.
They charge he then weighted down the body and tossed it into the bay, only to have her remains and the couple's fetus wash ashore four months later.
Defense attorneys assert someone else abducted Laci Peterson while she walked the couple's dog, then acted on Scott Peterson's widely publicized alibi to frame him.
Defense attorney Mark Geragos yesterday played for jurors an audio tape on which Brocchini dictated notes from a police interview with the witness, who said Laci Peterson used the bathroom at the warehouse the day before she was reported missing.
Geragos implied Brocchini left out the woman's account because it did not fit with the police theory that Laci Peterson had never been near the boat.
"Can you tell me how that particular piece of information got excised out of your police report?" Geragos asked.
"I excised it," Brocchini replied.
"You did?" Geragos replied, seemingly shocked.
"I guess I did," Brocchini said.
Geragos spent the day attacking the police investigation.
One witness reported seeing a pregnant woman walking a dog near Peterson's home on Christmas Eve -- the day Laci Peterson was reported missing -- yet police did not exhaust the lead, Geragos charged during his second day questioning Brocchini.
Geragos asked Brocchini if he had ever shown the man a picture of Laci or the couple's golden retriever, the same kind of dog the witness said he saw in a park near the Petersons' home.
"He said he couldn't see her face," Brocchini said.
"What about the dog, he saw the dog, didn't he?" Geragos persisted.
"Did you ask him specifically what the golden retriever looked like?" Geragos asked.
"No," Brocchini said quietly.