A defense attorney for Scott Peterson told jurors in the double murder trial that while his client may be hated, he should not be presumed as killing his pregnant wife.
"If you hate him, then maybe what (prosectors) are asking you to do is just convict then; don't bother with five months of evidence," Mark Geragos said in his closing argument. "Don't bother with the fact that the evidence clearly shows that he did not do this, and absolutely had no motive to do this."
Geragos blasted the prosecution for vilifying his client. He suggested to jurors that Peterson's wife, Laci, and her unborn fetus were killed by more than one person and, repeated several times, that no evidence supports the prosecution's notion that Peterson strangled or smothered his pregnant wife.
"They have this theory that if there is no evidence — no blood, poisoning, knife with blood on it -you've got to come up with the theory of a soft kill suffocation or something like that," Geragos told the jury. However, he added, "She didn't struggle in that house, or die in that house because there is no evidence of it."
If anything, he said, the evidence suggests that Laci was alive when she was reported missing on Christmas Eve 2002. A hair curling iron was left on a bathroom counter, and home computer records showed someone had perused advertisements for brightly colored umbrellas.
"There is only one rationale conclusion, and that is Scott Peterson is not guilty," Geragos said. "A reasonable doubt is entitled to a verdict, but not guilty."
On Monday, prosecutors portrayed the fertilizer salesman as a philandering narcissist who murdered his pregnant wife and dumped her body into San Francisco Bay as part of a plan to free himself from a dull marriage.
In his closing arguments, prosecutor Rick Distaso attacked Peterson's alibi that he had been fishing alone in the bay when his 27-year-old wife turned up missing.
The bodies of Laci and her unborn fetus washed up on a rocky shore in mid-April, a mile from where Peterson, 32, said he had taken his new 14-foot aluminum boat out for a maiden voyage on the day his wife disappeared.
"The reason he killed Laci Peterson was Conner Peterson [the unborn son] was on the way," Distaso told jurors. "Things were going to change. No more of this running around, living this double-life thing. He wants to live the rich, successful, freewheeling bachelor life. He can't do that when he's paying child support, alimony and everything else."
In the crowded, tense courtroom, Distaso held up fishing lures that Peterson bought for the 30- to 40-minute fishing trip he took 90 miles from home. Holding up the lures for the jury to see, Distaso said, "Nobody ever caught fish on lures that were still in the package."
Distaso said Peterson claimed that he returned home to find his wife missing. He told a neighbor he played golf that day. He told police he went fishing.
Throughout the four-hour closing, Distaso displayed timelines and played video footage of Laci and tape-recorded telephone calls between Peterson and his girlfriend, Amber Frey, to create a portrait of a lying murderer. Peterson, he said, is a "bald-faced liar" who lives in two worlds, one public and one private.
"He doesn't love anyone but himself," Distaso said. "He didn't want to be tied to Laci the rest of his life, so he killed her. Easy as that."
A month before his wife disappeared, Peterson began a dalliance with Frey, a Fresno massage therapist, who was led to believe that he was single and in search of a serious relationship. To Peterson, Distaso said, Frey represented "lust and freedom."
Just days after his wife vanished from their Modesto home, Peterson was showering Frey with inexpensive, sentimental gifts, strawberries and champagne, and romantic promises, even as he misled her with elaborate deceptions, Distaso said.
On Dec. 31, 2002, Peterson called Frey from Modesto claiming to be in France and watching a fireworks display at the Eiffel Tower, the prosecutor said. Less than an hour later, Peterson's supporters held a candlelight vigil for his missing wife.
A few days later, Peterson told Frey, "I'll think about you and feel your lips," in a conversation that was among hundreds secretly taped by Frey, who began working with authorities after she learned that he was married and a suspect in his wife's disappearance.
Distaso was unable to tell the jury exactly how, when or why Peterson allegedly killed his wife. "This is a circumstantial case," he said. "But each piece fits. This man is guilty of murder."
Chuck Smith, a former San Mateo County prosecutor and now a defense lawyer, was impressed by the passionate, detailed closing.
"Rick was like a preacher in church, bringing damnation and hellfire down on Scott Peterson," he said.
"I think Mark Geragos has his work cut out for him," he said.
The jury is expected to begin weighing the case in sequestered deliberations Wednesday after receiving special instructions from San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Alfred A. Delucchi.
Peterson faces two counts of first-degree murder, which requires premeditation and allows for the death penalty. Delucchi ruled Friday that the jury would have the option of second-degree murder charges, which could bring two sentences of 15 years to life in prison.
The lesser charges were regarded as a victory for prosecutors because it would presumably make it easier for the jury to convict Peterson if they cannot agree whether the killings were premeditated.