Skip to comments.Jury Recommends Execution for Peterson
Posted on 12/13/2004 3:59:13 PM PST by No Surrender Monkey
REDWOOD CITY, Calif. - A jury decided Monday that Scott Peterson (news - web sites) should be executed for murdering his pregnant wife, Laci, whose Christmas Eve disappearance two years ago was the opening act in a legal drama that captivated the nation.
A cheer went up outside the courtroom as the jury announced its decision after 11 1/2 hours of deliberations over three days. The jury had two options in deciding the 32-year-old former fertilizer salesman's fate: life in prison without parole or death by injection.
Peterson clenched his jaw when the verdict was read and leaned over to speak with his attorney, Mark Geragos. Laci Peterson (news - web sites)'s mother, Sharon Rocha, cried quietly her lips quivering. Scott Peterson's mother, Jackie, showed no apparent emotion.
A crowd of several hundred gathered outside the courthouse to hear the verdict a scene reminiscent of when about 1,000 people showed up last month for the conviction. The San Francisco Examiner came out with a special edition within minutes of the sentence, with the giant headline "DEATH."
Three jurors held a news conference following the verdict in which they described what they called a "very hard" decision.
"There are so many things, so many things," juror Richelle Nice said. "Scott Peterson was Laci's husband, Conner's daddy the one person that should have protected them."
Judge Alfred A. Delucchi will formally sentence Peterson on Feb. 25. The judge will have the option of reducing the sentence to life, but such a move is highly unlikely.
If the judge upholds the sentence, Peterson will be sent to death row at San Quentin State Prison outside San Francisco, the infamous lockup where prisoners gaze out small cell windows overlooking the same bay where Laci Peterson's body was discarded.
But Peterson still might not be executed for decades if ever and it can take years for even the first phase of the appeals process to begin. Since California brought back capital punishment in 1978, only 10 executions have been carried out; the last execution, in 2002, was for a murder committed in 1980. The state's clogged death row houses about 650 people.
The jury's decision followed seven days of tearful testimony in the penalty phase of the trial. Shortly before reaching its decision, the jury had asked the judge to see 13 pieces of evidence, including autopsy photos and aerial pictures of San Francisco Bay.
In arguing for death last week, prosecutors called Peterson "the worst kind of monster" and said he was undeserving of sympathy. Geragos begged of jurors: "Just don't kill him. That's all I am asking of you. End this cycle."
The death sentence came almost two years to the date after the disappearance of Laci Peterson, a 27-year-old substitute teacher who married her college sweetheart and was soon to be the proud mother of a baby boy named Conner. The story set off a tabloid frenzy as suspicion began to swirl around Scott Peterson, who claimed to have been fishing by himself on Christmas Eve and was carrying on an affair with a massage therapist at the time.
The remains of Laci and the fetus washed ashore about four months later, just a few miles from where Peterson said he was fishing in the San Francisco Bay. The case went to trial in June, and the jury of six men and six women convicted Peterson last month of two counts of murder.
The case made more People magazine covers than any murder investigation in the publication's history. Court TV thrived on the case, providing countless hours of coverage on the investigation and gavel-to-gavel commentary throughout the trial. CNN's Larry King hosted show after show with pundits picking apart legal strategies, testimony and even Scott Peterson's demeanor.
Trial regulars showed up by the hundreds to participate in the daily lottery for the coveted 27 public seats inside the courtroom.
Prosecutors spent months portraying Peterson as a cheating husband and cold-blooded killer who wooed his lover even as police searched for his missing wife. They said he wanted to murder Laci to escape marriage and fatherhood for the pleasures of the freewheeling bachelor life.
The prosecution put on a short, but emotional case in the penalty phase, calling just four witnesses.
"Every morning when I get up I cry," Rocha told jurors. "It takes me a long time just to be able to get out of the house ... I miss her. I want to know my grandson. I want Laci to be a mother. I want to hear her called mom."
Rocha would later rise halfway out of her seat and scream at Scott Peterson, who was seated impassively at the defense table: "Divorce was always an option," she said. "Not murder!"
Defense attorneys argued during the trial's guilt phase that Peterson was framed and that the real killers dumped Laci's body in the water after learning of Peterson's widely publicized alibi. The defense fought hard to save Peterson's life, calling about 40 witnesses over seven days in the penalty phase.
In a brief news conference after the verdict, Geragos said he was "very disappointed." "Obviously, we plan on pursuing every and all appeals, motions for a new trial and everything else," he said.
Defense attorneys seized on anything from Scott Peterson's past in attempt to spare his life, including testimony that he never cheated or lost his temper on the golf course.
They told jurors of the Scott Peterson who was a smiling, snuggling toddler. He was the high school golf captain who tutored younger students. He sang to seniors on Sundays and once broke up a dog fight. He cared for mentally retarded children. He was the highly motivated son who worked his way through college.
And finally, he was the young professional who married the woman he fell in love with in college.
"I wish there was a phrase that I could give you that could turn this around and make you believe there is good, there is real, real good in this person," defense attorney Pat Harris said during closing arguments. "But I don't have that phrase ... that's up to you to decide."
There were no executions from 1977 to 1992. The CDC site says 10 executions, but they list 11 names on another page.
what is LWOP?
Life WithOut Parole
I am tired of hearing that lame sentiment.
It is just. May his appeals give him more until he cracks up.
I call Scott a "Hidden Killer"....someone who has thought of evil many, many times but held it until it served him exactly as he planned it.
Except for one thing, God raised Laci and Connor from the depths of HIS waters and showed the world "a hidden killer".
Scott reminds me of the little kid who puts his hands over his eyes and thinks you can't see him. It's exactly what he did throughout this trial...sat there, oblivious to everything around him.
Scott deserves to die, but he's not dead yet. Nobody should go to hell. He needs to gets in touch with his spiritual leader and examine his conscience while he still has time. All of us do.
Not a bad idea...I can think of many ways--all unpleasant--that lil Scottie could have his ticket punched.
thanks. I was watching the news when the jurors were being interviewed. they said one of the things that got to them was his lack of emotion on any level. he just doesn't care. Then again, of course he doesn't care. he murdered his wife and baby. He has no sole.
In the still of the night, as he sits alone in his cell, I hope the enormity of his evil deed weighs heavy upon his conscience. Then may he understand what he's lost, and how far he is from the rest of humanity.
No, he has no "soul". Being a condemned killer, he should have no "sole" also, because people were conventionally executed barefoot (without shoes on), I believe.