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Breakfast Seconds

In the basement, again, at the Scott Peterson trial

By Peter Bellone

ALL RISE, the second edition of the Breakfast Club is now in session, and eggs aren't on the menu. Lured down from those heights and into the basement cafeteria of the Redwood City courthouse (a.k.a. the clubhouse), would you give a warm bang of the gavel for Karen Fleming-Ginn, the president of Verdix Jury Consulting Inc., who has come to observe the Scott Peterson trial. She is the most pleasant woman you never want to meet, except, of course, if you are in the media, and then it's like bees on honey, because some of the trials she's been involved in have been so sweet to our insatiable, sugary search for the seamier side (I won't tell a soul. I promise). She's worked for Robert Noel and Marjorie Knoller, defendants in the San Francisco dog-mauling case, and for the prosecution against Timothy McVeigh, to name a few.

Sure, those people have rights, but so do we, and I invoked my right to cut to the chase.

"So tell me, do you get paid for all those television appearances?"

"She gets something better--she gets the publicity!" club president Valerie Harris interjected with a look the novice always seems to bring on himself.

As they say, though, from the mouths of babes.

"It's amazing but ..."

No, Mrs. Fleming-Ginn, it's not amazing. It's what my Italian grandmother, rest in peace, always use to say with a wave of the hand, "disonorare," a disgrace. A regular on the media circuit for more than two years, she has been courted by all the big-name papers: the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Jose Mercury News, the Contra Costa Times. Her voice has flowed out of our radio speakers, and she has appeared on Channels 4, 5, 7 and 11, even Good Morning America twice, for Pete's sake. In all, we're talking anywhere from 30 to 60 appearances. And what does she have to show for it?

"My phone rings all the time with media people, but no new clients. . . . In a way, I feel like that really attractive woman who doesn't get asked out on dates."

Disonorare! Don't hate her because she is beautiful is right. Please--you're making us, the media, look bad, as if we're an echo chamber, or worse, a circle jerk of copycats. You don't want to do that; it's unfair. When the bomb hits and you're down in your cushy shelter, and you need those radiation levels chop-chop, somebody has to go out there and do it, right? When the bullets fly, when the government lies, who you gonna call?

That's right. So it's time you get with the program and slide some business her way. (Call 925.256.4479. She picks up on the first ring.)

That's not a plug; it's about right and wrong and seeing justice prevail. This is the very glue that holds the Breakfast Club together and gets us to court on time. Speaking of which, with all the interesting people I've met so far, it's easy to forget that someone's life is at stake here. Right now, Scott Peterson's trial is in the jury-selection phase. One person after another sits alone in the booth and takes the same speeches and questions from the judge and lawyers. It's repetitive and only for the truly dedicated and the people who have to be there.

According to Fleming-Ginn, the prosecution is essentially looking for the black and white--people who follow the rules, like those in the military or managers, and lead stable lives. The defense seeks out the gray--people who have been married a couple of times, maybe have a DWI and lead lives that make them less judgmental. What they both don't want, she says, are jurors like the airline steward we watched testify that morning. "Her answers seemed a little too polished, like she's trying to get on the jury." That's bad, because those people have an agenda and more than likely they aren't open-minded.

I asked Fleming-Ginn twice if she thought Scott was guilty, and twice she pretended not to hear. Even on her days off, she's a professional.

Send a letter to the editor about this story to letters@metronews.com.

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From the April 21-27, 2004 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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