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Doug Gamble- Contributor

Doug Gamble is a former writer for President Ronald Reagan and resides in Carmel. [go to Gamble index]

California Justice
Geragos is the loser…
[Doug Gamble] 1/5/05

It’s customary at the end of an old year for some pundit to select winners and losers over the preceding 12 months. I haven’t compiled a list of each, but I do have an opinion about the top winner and leading loser in California in 2004.

The big winner was justice, as dispensed to double-murderer Scott Peterson in a Redwood City courtroom in the form of a guilty verdict and the death penalty. The big loser was arrogance, exemplified by Mark Geragos, the publicity-seeking, swaggering Los Angeles lawyer who made promises to a jury that he couldn’t keep.

I’m also a loser myself, as a prognosticator, having predicted shortly after the Peterson trial began that he would be acquitted, based on the shaky performance of a prosecution team that eventually recovered from its slow start. I not only underestimated its ability to bounce back, but also the common sense of 12 dedicated jurors who were able to take pieces of a jigsaw puzzle and piece them together.

The Peterson affair did not end with the old year, of course. A book by star witness and Peterson mistress Amber Frye hit the bookstores yesterday (Tuesday) and formal sentencing is scheduled for February 25, followed by appeals, more books and probably another made-for-TV movie.

Also ongoing will be efforts by Geragos to rehabilitate his tattered reputation by pretending to search for Laci Peterson’s “real” killer or killers. Perhaps at some point he’ll cross paths with O.J. Simpson who has been on a similar mission since 1995, fruitlessly so far, although I’m not sure if the attorney plays golf.

When Peterson was under investigation, Geragos suggested in TV appearances that all signs pointed to the fertilizer salesman’s guilt. He says he later decided to defend Peterson when he saw what he called “a lynch mob” outside the Modesto jail the night he was brought in for booking. More likely it was seeing a mob of media.

Yes, every accused is entitled to a defense. But what turned off most Californians was having their intelligence insulted by the preening pronouncements of a lawyer who vowed not only to prove his obviously guilty client innocent, but to actually solve the case himself.

What Geragos lacked in defending Peterson he more than makes up for in chutzpa, now soliciting check and credit card donations on his web site to help finance an on-going investigation. If things really get rough for him personally he could always stand on a street corner with a sign saying, “Will tell more fairy tales for food.”

But as satisfying as it was to see a big ego brought down a peg or two, what distinguishes the Peterson case is the feeling it was, for once, a clear cut victory for the good guys over the bad guys, in a culture where the search for justice is often futile. Whether in business, government, consumerism or our daily lives, many of us seldom get the uplifting satisfaction that real justice has been done. This time it was, and it felt great.

It was, in a sense, a vindication for California following the travesty of the Simpson trial where the nation saw an L.A. jury incapable of convicting a man who had murdered his ex-wife and her friend. The Peterson jury also exploded the image of most Californians as flakes, showing the country six women and six men who comported themselves with admirable wisdom, grace and commitment.

When court-watchers nationwide expected the jury to deliver a quick verdict in the penalty phase to avoid a weekend in a hotel for a return to surfing, chanting or whatever else all Californians are thought to do, the panel hung in to make sure it got it right.

Other California juries will be in the spotlight with the current murder trial of actor Robert Blake and the upcoming child-molestation trial of singer Michael Jackson. Perhaps the justice achieved in the Peterson case will mark the beginning of a trend. CRO

California-based Doug Gamble contributed speech material to Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and writes a twice-monthly column for the Orange County Register and

Copyright 2004 Doug Gamble




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