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Peterson May Try 'Bull's-Eye' Defense

Scott Peterson, Laci Peterson trial arraignment case gavel
AP / CBS
An attorney for the California man accused of killing his pregnant wife claims it was clear early in the investigation into Laci Peterson's disappearance that police wanted to "paint a bull's-eye" on Scott Peterson.

"It was obvious," Kirk McAllister told reporter Gloria Gomez of CBS affiliate KOVR, "in just in how they were dealing with me, how they were dealing with Scott, how they were insisting on trying to talk to Scott, even though they knew he had an attorney — and I was the attorney — and trying to do an end-run around me."

"All those were tell-tale signs they were trying to put a bull's-eye on his chest," McAllister said, in a possible preview of one defense he may mount in his client's trial on charges of killing Laci Peterson and their unborn child, who would have been named Conner.

That defense would contend that police singled out Scott Peterson early on, to the exclusion of any other suspects.

To bolster that case, the defense could present alternate theories of the crime. CBS News Correspondent John Blackstone reports that Scott Peterson's family sees many parallels between the murder of their daughter-in-law and another pregnant California woman that they have suggested the killings could be linked.

While the Peterson case captured many headlines, the disappearance and murder of Evelyn Hernandez went virtually unreported, despite many eerie similarities.

Hernandez was an immigrant from El Salvador and a single mother who already had a 5-year-old son.

Like Laci Peterson, Hernandez was eight months pregnant when she disappeared last May. Three months after she vanished, her body was found, like Laci Peterson's, in San Francisco bay. There has been no arrest in the case, and police say they have exhausted all leads.

A recent study concluded the leading cause of death for pregnant women is murder. Criminologist Mike Rustigan tells the Early Show that, "especially with a pregnant married woman, you look at the husband right away."

But Scott Peterson's supporters say the Modesto police never looked further than Scott when they were looking for Laci's killer. While prosecutors say evidence linking Scott Peterson to the murder is solid, KOVR reports that some high-powered attorneys are willing to defend him for free.

Whoever defends Peterson, his case may take three to five years to go to trial.

District Attorney James Brazelton said Tuesday he also hopes for a July preliminary hearing to present evidence necessary to take Peterson to trial, but conceded it could take up to two years before a trial begins.

Stanislaus County prosecutors plan to decide by May 19 whether to seek the death penalty against Peterson, 30, a fertilizer salesman who pleaded not guilty Monday of killing his wife and unborn son.

The district attorney has alleged that Scott Peterson killed his wife at their Modesto home late Dec. 23 or early Dec. 24. He also claimed a special double-murder circumstance, allowing him to consider seeking the death penalty.

A controversial law in California allows prosecutors to charge murder in the death of a viable fetus. The body of the couple's unborn child, who would have been named Conner, was also recovered last week. His expected birth date had been in February.

Modesto Police arrested Peterson last week in San Diego, only days after the bodies of Laci and Conner Peterson washed ashore in San Francisco Bay, three miles from where Peterson said he was fishing when his wife disappeared on Christmas Eve.

Remains of the two are being held at the Contra Costa County Coroner's office as forensic experts continue so-far unsuccessful attempts to determine a cause of death.