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A Skeptical View of the Judicial System - West Memphis Three
Posted: 06 June 2007 08:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]
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Let’s just stick with your first recommendation for the moment - The database of similar cases to use for decisions.  Example: An elementary school teacher is arrested based on the report of two twelve year old girls who state that he molested them.  We examine the database and find 600 cases quite similar to this.  In 400 the teacher was found guilty and given a prison term.  In 200 the teacher is found not guilty because of insufficient evidence.  In 100 the the girls are later found to have lied because they didn’t like an assignment the teacher had given them.  On review, 60 of the teachers were released from prison after serving an average of four years undeservedly, 10 of the innocent teachers were killed in prison, and the courts refused to review the cases of 30 teachers even though the girls admitted that they had given false testimony.

Based on the above information, how would the database direct a verdict?

Occam

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Posted: 03 July 2008 06:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]
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ISTM that the reason the system works as it does is because the public likes it as is. Jay Leno makes jokes about how hard it is to convict a celebrity in California and implies that it is because of the celebrity’s popularity. The only thing a celebrity has that others don’t is enough money to hire enough lawyers to make a good showing at trial - to point out the paucity of the prosecution case. O J Simpson was not acquitted because of celebrity - he was acquitted because the LAPD screwed up every single piece of evidence. Robert Blake was acquitted because there simply was not enough evidence to convict. Phil Spector only escaped conviction because 2 of 12 jurors saw that the evidence was actually all in his favor. David Camm, Fr. Gerald Robinson, Scott Peterson, the West Memphis 3 and many more were convicted despite the actual evidence, not because of it. And the howling crazies like Nancy Grace, Gloria Allred and the like, all claiming legal skills, applaud these incompetent convictions shamelessly. This is no accident, no act of bravery, opposing the public mood. This is demagoguery, pandering to the basest instincts.

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Posted: 03 July 2008 06:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]
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Occam - 06 June 2007 08:47 PM

Let’s just stick with your first recommendation for the moment - The database of similar cases to use for decisions.  Example: ... Based on the above information, how would the database direct a verdict?

Occam

I doubt it would. IMO the first step is to have much more of the prosecution case and its elements stipulated to - IOW that the jury shouldn’t have to listen to hours of evidence to prove that DNA is reliable when it is scientifically based, while fingerprints are assumed to be accurate although there is no scientific basis or system for their use. Perhaps if judges and lawyers were paid by the trial and not by the hour they would find ways to focus and we wouldn’t have 1 week trials stretched out to 5, 6 and 8 months and driving jurors insane with boredom.

Trial aborted over sudoku-playing jurors

A MILLION dollar Sydney drugs trial has been aborted after it was found jurors were playing the puzzle game sudoku while evidence was being given.
Sydney District Court Judge Peter Zahra today aborted the trial of two men facing a possible life sentence on drugs conspiracy charges.
He discharged the jury in the trial which had been running for 66 days over the past four months and had cost taxpayers an estimated $1 million.
The jury foreperson admitted to the judge that four to five jurors were playing puzzle games for up to half the time the trial had been going.

Edited to change color since blue is reserved for moderator comments. - Occam
Changed to brown since red is hard to read!

[ Edited: 01 August 2008 10:47 AM by A Voice of Sanity ]
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Posted: 01 August 2008 12:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]
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For one very good example of brain dead jurors, see http://www.corpus-delicti.com/mouser.html (there are links in the original article).

State of California v. Douglas S. Mouser
County of Stanislaus, Case No. 139818

In this case, a man named Douglas Mouser was tried for the murder of Genna Lyn Gamble, his step-daughter. Her nude body was found along Dry Creek near Waterford, CA on October 14, 1995. She had been strangled to death.

The state theorized, based on the speculations of detectives and a DOJ Profiler, Michael J. Prodan, that Doug Mouser first killed Genna Gamble at their home in Modesto and then drove her body 20-30 minutes away to dispose of it, likely after she had taken a shower (this, they argued, explained her nudity). There was no evidence of a crime at the Gamble residence. And there was no evidence of Doug Mouser’s involvement with the crime at all. During the entire five month trial, only one piece of associative physical evidence was offered by the prosecution: a mark on her leg examined by an expert named Gary Robertson (a photogrammatrist). He testified that this mark was identical to the pattern on the seatbelts in Doug Mouser’s car, which he argued supported the prosecution’s theory.

However, Mr. Robertson was alone in his opinions. Every other forensic expert that testified on this issue concluded that Mr. Robertson’s interpretations had no legitimate basis, and/ or the pattern on her leg was consistent with an underwear mark. This included Dr. John Thornton (defense criminalist); John Yoshida (DOJ criminalist, testifying for the prosecution); Dr. Robert Lawrence (forensic pathologist who conducted the autopsy, testifying for the prosecution); and Dr. James R. Williamson (an expert in photogrammetry with a PhD in Engineering, who has trained the FBI in image analysis, testifying for the defense).

Even when the prosecution attempted to have Mr. Roberston’s findings validated by the FBI’s Image Analysis Unit, they reported in essence that Mr. Roberston had overstated his findings. As part of their report, they explained that Mr. Robertson had not done anything to exclude other sources for the pattern on Genna Gamble’s leg. They further reported, in essence, that he did not apparently understand the difference between class evidence and individuating evidence.

It should also be noted that Mr. Robertson did not have a professional CV, and was unable to define the term forensic science when asked to do so by the defense.

On Monday, December 20th, 1999, the jury convicted Douglas Mouser of murdering his 14-year-old stepdaughter.

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Posted: 01 August 2008 10:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]
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Really unfortunate.  However, that validates an opinion I have about the jury system as it is presently set up.  Since it is mostly the dumbest criminals who are caught, then the structure is quite fair because they are definitely tried by “a jury of their peers.”

Occam

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Posted: 01 August 2008 10:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]
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Occam - 01 August 2008 10:26 AM

Really unfortunate.  However, that validates an opinion I have about the jury system as it is presently set up.  Since it is mostly the dumbest criminals who are caught, then the structure is quite fair because they are definitely tried by “a jury of their peers.”

Occam

“Mostly’ is no consolation to the innocent who are lynched by this ‘system’. The same prosecutors who did this to Mouser went on to repeat the method on Scott Peterson - a steady leak of misinformation to prejudice the jury pool and incompetents passed off as experts to offer fraud instead of science in a 5 month trial. As a result they were all promoted. Some truth - some justice.

[ Edited: 01 August 2008 11:39 AM by A Voice of Sanity ]
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Posted: 01 August 2008 11:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]
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Voice, 

Out of curiosity, how would you conduct a criminal justice system?  Juries are often flawed (try keeping a jury interested in lost profits theory in a breach of contract case).  It seems to me though that there are potentially fatal flaws in any system. 

I have heard of a few alternatives, most prominent are single arbiter trials which would be basically a bench trial or I have also heard of a system of professional juries, a panel of people who hear cases for a living.  There are problems here too.  For example, one sees judges (and potentially anyone, such as a professional juror, who is exposed to the courts systems on a daily basis) who don’t believe anyone.  They’ve heard every excuse in the book an they accept no extenuating circumstances.  Or the judge who believes everything a cop says no matter how unlikely. 

When you talk about celebrity justice, that’s not how it works for the vast majority.  I watched a lot of the OJ trial, I thought Marcia Clark did a terrible job putting on the case.  Among other things, she made a rookie mistake trying to have OJ put the glove on, she gave Johnny Cochran the best line of the case: “if it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”  Frankly if the police screwed up every major piece of evidence as you state, OJ should get off, the state has to prove it’s case and it can’t if the evidence is bad. 

No one should cry for Scott Peterson, he had one of the most prominent criminal defese lawyers in Ca.  I don’t know where you get the idea there was no evidence to convict Peterson, but he had the best defense money can buy.  He got a fair trial.  Besides, didn’t Scott Peterson confess?

[ Edited: 01 August 2008 11:15 AM by JRM5001 ]
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Posted: 01 August 2008 12:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]
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JRM5001 - 01 August 2008 11:13 AM

Voice, 

Out of curiosity, how would you conduct a criminal justice system?  Juries are often flawed (try keeping a jury interested in lost profits theory in a breach of contract case).  It seems to me though that there are potentially fatal flaws in any system. 

I have heard of a few alternatives, most prominent are single arbiter trials which would be basically a bench trial or I have also heard of a system of professional juries, a panel of people who hear cases for a living.  There are problems here too.  For example, one sees judges (and potentially anyone, such as a professional juror, who is exposed to the courts systems on a daily basis) who don’t believe anyone.  They’ve heard every excuse in the book an they accept no extenuating circumstances.  Or the judge who believes everything a cop says no matter how unlikely. 

When you talk about celebrity justice, that’s not how it works for the vast majority.  I watched a lot of the OJ trial, I thought Marcia Clark did a terrible job putting on the case.  Among other things, she made a rookie mistake trying to have OJ put the glove on, she gave Johnny Cochran the best line of the case: “if it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”  Frankly if the police screwed up every major piece of evidence as you state, OJ should get off, the state has to prove it’s case and it can’t if the evidence is bad. 

No one should cry for Scott Peterson, he had one of the most prominent criminal defense lawyers in Ca.  I don’t know where you get the idea there was no evidence to convict Peterson, but he had the best defense money can buy.  He got a fair trial.  Besides, didn’t Scott Peterson confess?

Which proves my point. Geragos may be well known but not for good lawyering. I’ve come to the conclusion that most US criminal lawyers are really, really bad. OJ needed half a dozen to make one good one. Spector needed a bunch. Scott had three but it didn’t help him. He had all the facts, but the prejudice ruled in that court. With a hand picked judge and a rigged jury, truth was the first casualty.

I think the US should stop licensing lawyers. It doesn’t work as they are doing it, and the process is hellacious and expensive for the lawyers. Let people make their own judgment of who to hire. Could they do much worse?

Where did I get the there was no evidence to convict Peterson? From the trial transcript. There is literally not a single piece of evidence against him.
Did Scott Peterson confess? No way in hell. He has maintained his innocence from day one, and rightly so. It was physically impossible for him to have committed the crime, and he is the last man who would have. He would have died to protect his wife or son.

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Posted: 01 August 2008 02:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]
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Voice, I make it a point to learn as little about these sorts of media frenzied subjects.  For better or worse I have lumped Peterson in with Spears, Lohan et al.  What I can say is that he got his day in court he had competent legal counsel and a jury found him guilty.  I sincerely doubt there was no evidence.  I have read your posts here and elsewhere and they are smart and well written, but I find it hard to believe that a jury and judge would put Peterson away on a double murder with “literally not a single piece of evidence against him.” 

There had to be at least some evidence, enough to in theory sustain a conviction or the judge would have thrown the case out.  Further, there had to be enough evidence to sustain a search warrant, arrest warrant. 

If you make me argue this further by continuing to assert a total lack of evidence and force me in turn to clutter my brain with Scott Peterson info you will rue the day . . .  grin 

I don’t agree about most criminal lawyers.  There are of course good and bad lawyers as there are in any profession.  Law has become ever more complex and specialized as has society at large.  Accordingly, one finds that some criminal lawyers have begun to specialize.  It’s not unusual for more than one lawyer to be involved in a big case though where there are a ton of issues and where it would be difficult for one person to handle all of the work.  Further, most criminal cases never make it to a jury.  Often the defendant has been caught red handed an the lawyer’s job is not to get the person off (assuming all procedures were properly followed), but get them the least jail time possible.

Unlicensed lawyers would be a disaster.  If you think the process is long and drawn out now, try getting people who don’t know the rules into court.  Further, if you hire a lawyer, at least you can be assured they went to college, graduated law school and have enough legal knowledge to pass the bar.  Imagine someone who’s never read the 4th Amendment and doesn’t know where to look for state and federal precedent re: an illegal search.  Unlicensed lawyers would most assuredly increase the number of innocent people in jail.

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Posted: 01 August 2008 04:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]
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JRM5001 - 01 August 2008 02:13 PM

Voice, I make it a point to learn as little about these sorts of media frenzied subjects.  For better or worse I have lumped Peterson in with Spears, Lohan et al.  What I can say is that he got his day in court he had competent legal counsel and a jury found him guilty.  I sincerely doubt there was no evidence.  I have read your posts here and elsewhere and they are smart and well written, but I find it hard to believe that a jury and judge would put Peterson away on a double murder with “literally not a single piece of evidence against him.” 

There had to be at least some evidence, enough to in theory sustain a conviction or the judge would have thrown the case out.  Further, there had to be enough evidence to sustain a search warrant, arrest warrant. 

If you make me argue this further by continuing to assert a total lack of evidence and force me in turn to clutter my brain with Scott Peterson info you will rue the day . . .  grin

I speak the truth. See Scott Peterson is Innocent (LINK) for my thoughts - the first two sections will suffice.

JRM5001 - 01 August 2008 02:13 PM

I don’t agree about most criminal lawyers.  There are of course good and bad lawyers as there are in any profession.  Law has become ever more complex and specialized as has society at large.  Accordingly, one finds that some criminal lawyers have begun to specialize.  It’s not unusual for more than one lawyer to be involved in a big case though where there are a ton of issues and where it would be difficult for one person to handle all of the work.  Further, most criminal cases never make it to a jury.  Often the defendant has been caught red handed an the lawyer’s job is not to get the person off (assuming all procedures were properly followed), but get them the least jail time possible.

Unlicensed lawyers would be a disaster.  If you think the process is long and drawn out now, try getting people who don’t know the rules into court.  Further, if you hire a lawyer, at least you can be assured they went to college, graduated law school and have enough legal knowledge to pass the bar.  Imagine someone who’s never read the 4th Amendment and doesn’t know where to look for state and federal precedent re: an illegal search.  Unlicensed lawyers would most assuredly increase the number of innocent people in jail.

I hear what you are saying. But are music teachers state licensed? Would you go to just anyone to be taught to play? Wouldn’t the lack of a state license lead to people not assuming that any lawyer can do anything? My grandmother went to an expensive lawyer to conveyance a property - he specialized in this and charged more than most. 40 years later we found he had screwed it up and we had to pay to do it again. I suspect a competent, experienced legal secretary could have done a better job for less money.

There has to be a better system.

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Posted: 01 August 2008 08:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]
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Peterson was havng an affair, he told conflicting stories about where he was on that fishing trip and the defense came up with ridiculous and unfounded theories about satanic kidnappers.  There is plenty of other circumstantial evidence such as the location of the corpses near where he was allegedly fishing (that’s a pretty significant coincidence), statements he madeto Amber Frey, his obvious efforts to flee, and so on.  You said there was “no evidence” I found plenty in a 5 minute search.

As for lawyers, are you going to condemn a whole profession based on a 40 year old error?  I hope you don’t hold doctors to the same standard.  Otherwise, I have some snake oil I can sell you cheap that will cure all your ailments.  Maybe we should all be our own policemen.  We can rename our nation Dodge City USA.

All kidding aside, there are certainly bad lawyers and even good ones make mistakes—which can be said of any human endeavor.  However, practicing law is a little harder than you imagine.  Take the legal secretary to whom you referred.  He or she probably can handle most real estate transactions, but someone had to train him or her.  Further, a paralegal may be able to prepare the paperwork, but do they understand the recording process, the tax implictions, etc of the transaction? 

When questioning the arresting officer in a criminal case, one can’t stop the trial to research whether their search procedures were constitutional.  Knowing something like that requires years of reading case law and trying cases.  It also requires the intelligence and training to understand the legal jargon in the rulings and experience to understand how those rulings are applied in the real world.  I submit that some joker off the street will not be as well prepared as someone who has studied law and been tested by the bar to try a case.

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Posted: 01 August 2008 08:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]
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JRM5001 - 01 August 2008 08:03 PM

Peterson was having an affair, he told conflicting stories about where he was on that fishing trip and the defense came up with ridiculous and unfounded theories about satanic kidnappers.  There is plenty of other circumstantial evidence such as the location of the corpses near where he was allegedly fishing (that’s a pretty significant coincidence), statements he made to Amber Frey, his obvious efforts to flee, and so on.  You said there was “no evidence” I found plenty in a 5 minute search.

None of what you have described is evidence. And I gather you didn’t look at the two pages I pointed you to, which IMO are conclusive.

... the location of the corpses near where he was allegedly fishing (that’s a pretty significant coincidence)

What was the prosecutor’s evidence? He said the only thing you needed to consider was that Laci was found ‘exactly’ where Scott was boating. Let us look at that argument. What he is saying is

Laci Peterson lived in California
Laci Peterson was abducted from California
Four months later Laci Peterson’s body was found in California
Scott Peterson lived in California
Therefore Scott Peterson is guilty.

That doesn’t convince me - or many others!

[ Edited: 01 August 2008 08:53 PM by A Voice of Sanity ]
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Posted: 03 August 2008 08:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 43 ]
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Voice,

I read link you provided, forgive me if I don’t accept the author’s obviously biased writings whole. 

As for all of these arguments you offer they could have been made and some apparently were made at trial.  First of all you seem to think that just because the bodies were recovered near a highway that anyone could killed Laci Peterson and her baby.  This is faulty logic.  The problem is that Peterson was the only person who KNEW the victims who was also there around the time of death. 

In response to one of your’s and the website’s points, the defense offered expert testimony on the age of the fetus from Dr. Charles March.  On cross he was destroyed by the prosecution.  March became so flustered that he begged the prosecution to “cut me some slack.”  He based his gestational age of the baby on the uncorroborated evidence of a woman who stated that Laci Peterson took a preganacy test on a certain date that was not present in any medical records.  Talk about unscientific.  The hearsay statement of a third party reporting a mudane conversation over a year old at a baby shower is far more circumstantial than anything the prosecution presented.  I’ll take the prosecution’s age estimate based on an ultrasound and corpse’s bones anyday. 

As for the other evidence mentioned on the website, I didn’t find anything about those facts being raised at trial, but if it were as clear as alleged on this uncorroborated website, why did Dr. March have to base his age of the fetus on such unreliable hearsay?  The answer to that question is obvious: it’s either falsely stated or what evidence found was not as uncontrovertable as alleged by this anonymous website. 

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4176/is_20041022/ai_n14586674

I’m not going to get into a point by point evidentiary debate over the conviction of Scott Peterson.  We can argue that point all day and not reach agreement.  It’s easy in a forum like this or on a one sided website to make unequivocal statements like there was"no evidence of guilt.” Fortunately if someone has enough time to waste, these erroneous statements can be proven false.  What is obvious is that Peterson got a fair trial and a very good defense with ample opportunity to debunk the prosecution’s forensic evidence and and that he was still convicted.  What’s more he has the opportunity to appeal the conviction and raise the issues you offer.  I hope for Peterson’s sake that there’s more than what I’ve seen.

[ Edited: 03 August 2008 08:38 PM by JRM5001 ]
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Posted: 03 August 2008 09:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 44 ]
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JRM5001 - 03 August 2008 08:34 PM

Voice,

I read link you provided, forgive me if I don’t accept the author’s obviously biased writings whole. 

I am the author.

JRM5001 - 03 August 2008 08:34 PM

As for all of these arguments you offer they could have been made and some apparently were made at trial.  First of all you seem to think that just because the bodies were recovered near a highway that anyone could killed Laci Peterson and her baby.  This is faulty logic.  The problem is that Peterson was the only person who KNEW the victims who was also there around the time of death.

So in your world all people are only killed by those who are known to know them? You are wrong in this. You are also wrong in your assumption that Scott was anywhere near Laci when she died - in February. He provably was not.

JRM5001 - 03 August 2008 08:34 PM

In response to one of your’s and the website’s points, the defense offered expert testimony on the age of the fetus from Dr. Charles March.  On cross he was destroyed by the prosecution.  March became so flustered that he begged the prosecution to “cut me some slack.”  He based his gestational age of the baby on the uncorroborated evidence of a woman who stated that Laci Peterson took a preganacy test on a certain date that was not present in any medical records.  Talk about unscientific.  The hearsay statement of a third party reporting a mudane conversation over a year old at a baby shower is far more circumstantial than anything the prosecution presented.  I’ll take the prosecution’s age estimate based on an ultrasound and corpse’s bones anyday.

Dr March is highly skilled at what he does. His estimate tracks everyone else except Dr Devore. Devore’s ‘theory’ was utter nonsense - and his own reference (Jeanty) says so.

JRM5001 - 03 August 2008 08:34 PM

As for the other evidence mentioned on the website, I didn’t find anything about those facts being raised at trial, but if it were as clear as alleged on this uncorroborated website, why did Dr. March have to base his age of the fetus on such unreliable hearsay?  The answer to that question is obvious: it’s either falsely stated or what evidence found was not as uncontrovertable as alleged by this anonymous website.

See above. The baby was full term.

JRM5001 - 03 August 2008 08:34 PM

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4176/is_20041022/ai_n14586674

I’m not going to get into a point by point evidentiary debate over the conviction of Scott Peterson.  We can argue that point all day and not reach agreement.  It’s easy in a forum like this or on a one sided website to make unequivocal statements like there was"no evidence of guilt.” Fortunately if someone has enough time to waste, these erroneous statements can be proven false.  What is obvious is that Peterson got a fair trial and a very good defense with ample opportunity to debunk the prosecution’s forensic evidence and and that he was still convicted.  What’s more he has the opportunity to appeal the conviction and raise the issues you offer.  I hope for Peterson’s sake that there’s more than what I’ve seen.

The easiest way to prove there was evidence of guilt is to offer some. Not one person on earth has ever been able to do this. I note that you have failed as well. You have a religious belief in this conviction which is not supported by any actual facts.

[ Edited: 03 August 2008 09:58 PM by A Voice of Sanity ]
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Posted: 04 August 2008 05:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 45 ]
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I shouldn’t respond to your personal attack, but will anyway.

You seem to want to try and attack me personally for my “religious beliefs” re: Scott Peterson.  Before your post I knew nothing of Peterson, I merely wanted to debunk your statement that there was “no evidence” in the case.  I accept the prosecution’s version of the age of the fetus based on the scientific evidence available, namely an ultrasound and the bones of the fetus.  I’ll accept that since you only made conclusory statements about Dr. March and his evidence that you concede that he based the age of the fetus on that babyshower conversation about the pregnancy test (for which there is absolutely no evidentiary support). 

If we were looking for a zealot here, I’d pick the one who is taking a leap of faith by relying upon secondhand hearsay to establish the age of the fetus and who created his own one-sided website on the matter.

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