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Legal News: Scott Peterson on Trial, John Hinckley on the Loose?

Aired September 1, 2003 - 19:23   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: In legal news, the status hearing is scheduled tomorrow in the Scott Peterson case. The Modesto, California, man stands charged with the murder of his pregnant wife and their unborn son.
And the man who shot President Reagan, John Hinckley, wants unsupervised trips away from the mental hospital where he's been held for more than 20 years.

Court TV's Lisa Bloom joins us now to help us sort out what all of this means.

Good evening. Nice to have you.

LISA BLOOM, COURT TV: Hi, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Let's start with the Laci Peterson case. The status hearing is tomorrow. With as little legalese as possible, what's the status hearing going to potentially give us?

BLOOM: This is a typical catchall hearing before the big day, which is the preliminary hearing set for September 9. That's when the prosecution will lay out all the evidence that they have against Scott Peterson to see if he'll be bound over for trial.

Tomorrow, we may hear things like one side or the other wants more time before the prelim, evidence hasn't been turned over yet, discovery hasn't been complied with, that kind of thing.

O'BRIEN: Sort of legal housekeeping, essentially.

BLOOM: Exactly.

O'BRIEN: Despite a gag order, there is a front-page story in "People" magazine that talks about some new information about the Laci Peterson case. Essentially, people reporting that Connor's remains significantly less decomposed than Laci's and a detective in the case saying that maybe, possibly, Connor had been born alive.

Now, CNN, we should note, has not been able to confirm any of this theory. But if it were true, how would that affect the prosecution's case?

BLOOM: Well, it would be a big hole in the prosecution's case if the two were killed separately. The prosecution's case is that Scott Peterson killed both of them together on the night of December 23 or at worst, the morning of December 24.

If they were killed at significantly different times, it's going to be hard for the prosecution to win, because Scott Peterson was under surveillance by both the media and by law enforcement after December 25.

Now, the prosecution has theories to counter the defense theories. One is called coffin birth, where the decomposing remains of a pregnant woman will spontaneously give birth to a child. That would account for Connor's body having the skin intact, being less decomposed than Laci's body.

O'BRIEN: Let's take a moment to talk about John Hinckley's request. He wants unsupervised visits from the mental hospital where he has been held for 20 years.

The family, Patty Davis specifically, has said no way. She says that basically he is -- absolutely should not be released and that she still thinks he is working, essentially, the system.

Do the authorities, do they take family members' comments into account when they're making their decision?

BLOOM: Well, they do take family members into account. But the key question for St. Elizabeth's Hospital is what's the state of John Hinckley's healing from his mental disability?

Now, his attorney says that it's been undisputed for ten years that he's healed. He no long has psychosis. He no longer has depression. He's been going out on supervised visits since 1999. The next step would be unsupervised visits. The next step would be a full release, and that's what he's pushing for.

O'BRIEN: So what do you think the chances are that actually his request will be accepted?

BLOOM: I think the chances are pretty good. He's had no problem with any of the supervised visits in the last three years. No incidents whatsoever. And psychiatrists seem to think that he's doing pretty well.

O'BRIEN: We will see.

Lisa Bloom from Court TV, nice to see you. Thanks, as always.

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