Peterson found guilty

Nicole Kurker-Stewart

A major step in the Scott Peterson case occurred this past Friday around 4 p.m., when jurors declared their verdict of first-degree and second-degree murder convictions. Peterson was convicted of first-degree murder pertaining to his 27-year-old wife Laci Peterson, and second-degree murder to their unborn child. Attention then turned on Saturday in Redwood City, Calif. to the life-or-death decision facing jurors.

Jurors discovered that due to the specific circumstances of the case- a conviction of multiple murders, under California law this means either a death sentence or life without parole.

The final decision will not be decided for another two weeks. The sentencing phase of the trial will begin Mon., Nov. 22. Thanksgiving holiday time will be taken off, and with this in account, Superior Court Judge Alfred Delucchi of San Mateo County said the second phase should take less than a week.

When the verdict was read, Scott Peterson, who had been smiling confidently prior to the verdict, looked “straight ahead, and not to either side,” said CNN’s Rusty Dornin. Laci Peterson’s mother and brother, Brent Rocha, sobbed when the verdict was announced. The Peterson family said nothing. Peterson’s defense attorney, Mark Geragos, was not present in the courtroom. Outside, people cheered and honked their car horns as news of the verdict reached spread.

Scott Peterson had been accused of killing Laci Peterson on or around Dec. 24, 2002. Prosecutors said he weighted her body with homemade cement anchors and dumped her in San Francisco Bay. Laci Peterson was about eight months pregnant.

Scott Peterson was arrested April 18, 2003, shortly after the remains of Laci and their unborn son washed ashore separately.

At the time of his arrest, Peterson was carrying $15,000 in cash, and had dyed his hair blond and grew a beard. Prosecutors said he was planning to flee to Mexico.

Over a period of 23 weeks, 184 witnesses testified. During closing arguments, Peterson’s defense attorney Mark Geragos said that prosecutors had not provided any direct evidence that Peterson had committed murder. “If there were any anchors, why didn’t they find them?” said Geragos. He also said that his client would never kill his wife to be with a woman he had gone out with only a few times, and he encouraged jurors to weigh only the evidence and put aside their own feelings about his client. “I don’t care if you hate Scott Peterson,” Geragos said.

Prosecutor Rick Distaso said in closing arguments to the jury that it was a common-sense case in which man killed his wife and that Peterson was the only one who could have killed Laci. Distaso claimed that Peterson’s motive was not to continue the admitted affair with massage therapist Amber Frey, but freedom from the burden of a wife and son, or if he became divorced, freedom from having to pay child support.

The defense maintained that the police targeted Peterson in their investigation, excluding other viable subjects. Geragos said that Peterson was framed, possibly by a homeless person or a burglar.