|December 13, 2004
1:48 PM Pacific Time
As Modesto Detectives and Uniformed Guards lined the
courtroom walls, Scott Peterson remained quiet and stoic
as the Jury's recommendation of DEATH was read.
Scott Peterson should die in San Quentin's death chamber for
murdering his wife, Laci, and their unborn child, the jury said today.
The six-woman, six-man panel took a little more than 12 hours over three days
to reach its decision. Their verdict capped six months of testimony in one of
themost highly publicized trials in recent history. The case first captured the
nation's attention when Laci Peterson disappeared from her Modesto home
the day before Christmas 2002 and has engrossed the country ever since.
A cheer went up outside the courthouse as the jury announced its decision. Inside
court, Peterson reacted with the same tight-jawed look that some jurors said turned
them off after seeing little emotion out of Peterson since his wife's disappearance.
"I still would have liked to see, I don't know if remorse is the right word," juror Steve Cardosi
said at a news conference following the sentence. "He lost his wife and his child —
it didn't seem to faze him. While that was going on ... he is romancing a girlfriend."
A crowd of several hundred gathered outside the courthouse for the verdict —
a scene reminiscent of when about 1,000 people showed up last month to
hear the conviction. The San Francisco Examiner came out with a special
edition within minutes of the sentence, with the giant headline "DEATH."
Laci Peterson's mother, Sharon Rocha, cried quietly — her lips quivering after
the verdict was read. Scott Peterson's mother, Jackie, showed no apparent emotion.
Laci Peterson's stepfather, Ron Grantski, was the only member of her
family to speak to the media after the jury's decision. Rocha and a
dozen other family members and friends sat sobbing nearby.
Grantski noted that the last time he and Rocha saw Laci was almost two
years ago to the day, on Dec. 15, 2002. "We have a lot of tough holidays
and dates coming up that are going to be very hard for us, Grantski said.
In a brief news conference after the verdict, defense attorney Mark 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.
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.
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 agrees with the verdict, Peterson will be sent to death row at
San Quentin State Prison outside San Francisco, the infamous lockup
that overlooks 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 641 people.
The sentence marked one of the final chapters in a soap opera-like
saga that began nearly with the Christmas Eve disappearance of Laci
Peterson, a 27-year-old substitute teacher who married her college sweet-
heart and was soon to be the proud mother of a baby boy named Conner.
The tale of adultery and murder quickly set off a tabloid frenzy as suspicion began
to swirl around Scott Peterson, who claimed to have been fishing by himself
that day 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 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 through-
out 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.
The case went to trial in June, and the jury of six men and six women convicted Peterson
Nov. 12 of two counts of murder before issuing its death recommendation Monday.
"There are so many things, so many things," juror Richelle Nice (aka Strawberry
Shortcake) said in describing how the jury came to its decisions. "Scott Peterson was
Laci's husband, Conner's daddy — the one person that should have protected them."
Jurors said they were swayed as much by Peterson's
lack of emotions as by any of the testimony.
"For me, a big part of it was at the end — the verdict — no emotion. No anything. That spoke
a thousand words — loud and clear," Nice said, responding to a reporter's question about
whether they wanted to hear a statement from Peterson. "I heard enough from him."
Juror Greg Beratlis said the jury was convinced of Peterson's guilt by "many, many things."
"Those bodies were found in the one place he went prior to her being missing,"
he said. "I played in my mind over and over conspiracies: Was somebody
trying to set up Scott? Was somebody after Laci? It didn't add up."
The jury's decision followed seven days of tearful testimony in the penalty phase of the trial.
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."
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, Laci's mother, 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 seized on anything from Scott Peterson's past in an 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 and who used to sing to seniors on Sundays.
In the end, jurors were unconvinced. They concluded Peterson sought to
break free of his domesticated life, then planned and executed the murders.
"I don't think divorce was an option," Beratlis said. "I think it was freedom."
HOME INDEX LACI LACI'S FAMILY CONNER LACI'S ALBUMS SCOTT
TRIAL GUILTY VERDICT WITNESS LIST
|Peterson jury imposes
|LACI & CONNER
REST IN PEACE DEAR ANGELS