[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----CALIFORNIA
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Nov 3 15:14:50 CST 2004
Jurors begin deliberating in Peterson case
Jurors began deliberating the fate of Scott Peterson on Wednesday,
weighing whether he murdered his pregnant wife and dumped her body in San
Francisco Bay or was merely a straying husband who was framed.
The deliberations began after closing arguments finished and jury
instructions were presented.
"You can't base a reasonable doubt on an unreasonable interpretation of
the evidence," prosecutor Rick Distaso told jurors in a brief rebuttal to
the defense closing argument. "It's just not reasonable that anyone put
that body in the bay to frame him. If it's not reasonable, you must reject
Winding up their case earlier in the day, defense lawyers had lashed out
at the notion that Laci Peterson's fetus died in her womb. Lawyer Mark
Geragos reminded jurors authorities never found the placenta or the fetus'
umbilical cord, leaving little evidence to determine whether the male
fetus was born alive and killed later.
If the fetus died later, Geragos said, "it's not Scott Peterson who did
Prosecutors claim Peterson strangled or smothered his wife on December 23
or 24, 2002, then dumped her weighted body into the bay. Her body and that
of the fetus washed ashore in April 2003. Geragos claims someone else
abducted and killed the Modesto woman.
Peterson is charged with 2 counts of 1st-degree murder and could get the
death penalty. The judge also allowed jurors to consider 2nd-degree
murder, which does not require evidence of premeditation and carries 15
years to life in prison.
The trial began with jury selection in March, and opening statements were
Geragos has argued the fetus was born well after Laci Peterson vanished,
proving his client couldn't be the killer given the intense police
surveillance of him in the days and weeks after she disappeared.
A prosecution witness testified the fetus likely died around the same time
Laci was reported missing. A defense witness countered that the fetus
could have been born weeks later.
"Was that baby wrapped in some kind of plastic? ... We don't know,"
Geragos told jurors. "The fact of the matter is, though, that that baby
looks like it had something wrapped around it to protect it."
Prosecutors have argued the fetus wasn't as badly decomposed as Laci's
body because it had remained in her womb for months before being expelled
from her decaying body.
On Tuesday, Geragos conceded the former fertilizer salesman, who was
having an affair at the time Laci vanished, is a liar and a cheat, but
said he shouldn't be convicted of murder.
"You're not supposed to just decide this case on whether or not you like
Scott Peterson," he told jurors.
Geragos accused prosecutors of waffling on their theory of the crime,
first claiming Peterson's motive was his affair with Amber Frey, then
raising financial issues and finally pointing to Peterson's desire to be
free from marriage.
"Clearly, Amber was not the motive," Geragos said. "Nobody was going to
kill Laci Peterson and her child for Amber Frey."
In their closing arguments, prosecutors made their case for premeditation,
contending each bit of evidence is like a piece of a puzzle that convicts
the former fertilizer salesman.
But Geragos said pieces are missing in that puzzle, such as the fact that
Peterson paid a bill for Laci's health insurance the day before she
Another piece, he said, is the lack of physical evidence. "Maybe the
logical explanation for the fact that we have no evidence of her
struggling in that house, dying in that house, is because it didn't happen
in that house."
He also tried to cast doubt on prosecutors' contention that Peterson had a
financial motive for the killing, noting Laci was set to inherit nearly $1
"She meant more to him alive than dead," Geragos said.
(source: Associated Press)
More information about the DeathPenalty