REDWOOD CITY, Calif. – Repelled by Scott Peterson’s seeming lack of sorrow and remorse, a jury decided Monday that he deserves the death penalty for murdering his pregnant wife, Laci, almost exactly two years ago.
A cheer went up outside the courthouse as the jury announced its decision after 11 1/2 hours of deliberations over three days. 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.”
Laci Peterson’s stepfather, Ron Grantski, was the only member of her family to speak to the media after the jury’s decision.
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.
Judge Alfred Delucchi will sentence Peterson on Feb. 25. If the judge agrees with the verdict, as he is expected to do, Peterson will be sent to death row at San Quentin State Prison outside San Francisco, overlooking the same bay where Laci Peterson’s body was discarded.
But Peterson, 32, 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.
The sentence marked one of the final chapters in a saga that began nearly with the Christmas Eve 2002 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.
Scott Peterson, who claimed to have been fishing by himself that day, 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.
“There are so many things, so many things,” juror Richelle Nice 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.”
“Those bodies were found in the one place he went prior to her being missing,” juror Greg Beratli 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.”
Judge Alfred Delucchi will formally sentence Scott Peterson on Feb. 25. The judge has the option of reducing the sentence from death to life in prison, but such a move is highly unlikely.
Peterson might not be executed for decades – if ever. It can take years for even the first phase of appeals to begin.
Krystyna Wiener (left), Kimberly Hovorta and Howard Kutzly react to the Scott Peterson verdict outside the courthouse in Redwood City, Calif., on Monday.