Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Peterson's Defense: Satellite Blinked

Peterson defense challenges police use of GPS
Scott Peterson's defense lawyer grilled an expert Wednesday about the reliability of satellite technology that police used to track the murder suspect before his arrest.

The hearing will determine whether evidence gathered from global positioning system devices secretly placed on Peterson's vehicles in the weeks after his wife's disappearance can be used in his upcoming trial.

Modesto police used GPS to track Peterson for nearly four months last year -- from Jan. 3 through April 22 -- when they arrested him near San Diego. He was caught carrying $10,000 and his brother's driver's license days after the bodies of his wife, Laci, and unborn son surfaced in San Francisco Bay."
The military developed the satellite-based system, which can pinpoint a user's location at any time, in all weather, anywhere in the world. The decades-old technology is now used by everyone from airline pilots to weekend hikers and Sunday drivers.

But GPS technology has yet to be tested in California's criminal courts. As a result, prosecutors first must establish its reliability using properly qualified experts, and then demonstrate the technology was used correctly. Only then could GPS-related evidence be introduced at Peterson's trial.

That process began Wednesday morning when Judge Alfred A. Delucchi agreed with prosecutor Rick Distaso, who said Loomis qualified as an expert.

Loomis acknowledged that at least twice the GPS devices used to trail Peterson provided inaccurate information for several minutes. Geragos is likely to seize on those errors to argue that the technology is unreliable.

Ever have your cell phone cut out? Does that mean you weren't having the phone coversation in the first place? I am a firm believer in innocent until proven guilty and despise defendants being tried in the press. However, we ought to have a new law where indivuals are entitled to any 'legitimate' defense. Increasingly we've reached a point where opposing sides call experts and the jury is put in a position of figuring out who's giving valid testimony - a task for which jurors are often ill-prepared. In many instances, particularly for the defense (in my experience), these 'experts' are merely prostitutes for hire. Often, prosecutors are aware that they could blow the expert out of the water but don't. Why? Appeals. Let them have their phony experts, they typically don't have a negative impact on the prosecution and there is one less opportunity for an appeal, as the 'evidence' was challenged by an expert for the defense. It's all a game no matter which side you're on. Perhaps we've reached a point where we need to reconsider the concept of 'jury of your peers' and have some expertise on the jury panel to cut through the B.S. It's a door that swings both ways, defendents are also convicted by insufficient evidence because of the power of personal persuasion rather than evidentiary strength. Our legal system, almost as depressing as our political system.


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