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Scott Peterson murder trial begins

Prosecution points to inconsistencies in his statements


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CNN's David Mattingly previews the Scott Peterson murder trial.

CNN's Paula Zahn gets Court TV's Beth Karas' reaction to the opening statement.

Court TV's Nancy Grace and legal panel examine prosecution's statement.

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REDWOOD CITY, California (CNN) -- After three months of jury selection and motions, the trial of Scott Peterson, accused of killing his wife and unborn son, opened Tuesday with the prosecution pointing out inconsistencies in Peterson's behavior.

In his opening statement, prosecutor Rick Distaso presented a meticulous description of the neighborhood where the couple lived and the chain of events that he said led to the disappearance of a pregnant Laci Peterson the day before Christmas 2002.

Distaso also pointed to apparent inconsistencies in the 31-year-old man's behavior: Peterson told a neighbor and then a relative of his wife that he had been golfing that day, but told investigators that he had been fishing.

In addition, the prosecutor said, Peterson told investigators he had left his Modesto, California, house at 9:30 a.m., but his cell phone records indicate he was still at home then.

Prosecutors say Peterson -- a former fertilizer salesman -- killed his wife and dumped her body in San Francisco Bay.

Her body, and that of her fetus, washed up separately on the eastern shore of the bay in April 2003.

Peterson has acknowledged that at the time of his wife's disappearance he was having an affair with Amber Frey, who has told reporters she did not know he was married.

He looked away from photos of the two of them that were shown to the jury Tuesday.

Distaso said that when investigators confronted Peterson with the pictures he asked them, "Is that supposed to be me?"

Other photos visibly moved Laci Peterson's family.

One, a picture of the smiling, pregnant woman -- facing sideways to the camera -- moved her father, Dennis Rocha, to tears.

Peterson's family walked out of the courtroom apparently unimpressed with the prosecution's case.

"Same thing. Nothing new," Scott Peterson's brother said. "No evidence."

Prosecutors are expected to use wiretaps to attack Peterson's credibility, but the case against him is largely circumstantial -- no murder weapon has been found, and there is no clear cause of death or murder scene.

In court, Distaso played an audiotape of a telephone conversation between Peterson and Frey. It was recorded on New Year's Eve, after Laci Peterson was reported missing and the same night a community vigil was held for her.

In the call, Peterson tells Frey he's in Brussels, Belgium -- although he's in California -- and vows their relationship will grow. Photographs of Peterson and Frey at a Christmas party were shown to the jury. Photos of Laci Peterson attending an event alone the same night were also shown.

Peterson has denied involvement in the deaths. Instead, he said, he had gone fishing the day his wife disappeared.

Peterson could face the death penalty or life in prison without parole if convicted.

Before opening statements began, Judge Alfred Delucchi addressed the six men and six women of the jury on their responsibilities in the case, which is expected to last well into the fall.

Defense attorney Mark Geragos was expected to say investigators ignored leads that would have led them to the real killer. He said Modesto police ignored witnesses who said they saw Laci Peterson in the neighborhood at the time a brown van was driving through the area.

About 10 members of Scott Peterson's family, including his parents, smiled but said nothing to members of the news media as they entered the courthouse.

Neither did Laci Peterson's mother, Sharon Rocha.

The two families were once close, but are now divided over whether Scott Peterson murdered his wife.

A gag order has been imposed to bar principals from talking to the news media about the case.

Cameras are not allowed in the courtroom, but reporters are. A throng of them assembled outside the building hours ahead of the 9 a.m. (noon ET) start to ensure they got a seat.

About 30 of 100 seats in the building were given to members of the general public, who were selected by lottery.

Judge Delucchi last year ordered the trial moved to Redwood City from Modesto, due to intense publicity.

CNN's Ted Rowlands and Chuck Afflerbach contributed to this report.


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