REDWOOD CITY, Calif. - The jury today began deliberating the fate of Scott Peterson, accused of killing his pregnant wife.
Judge Alfred A. Delucchi sent the jury off to lunch and into seclusion to consider two first-degree murder charges against Peterson. Jurors met for four hours before breaking for the day.
Peterson is accused of killing his wife, Laci, around Christmas 2002, then dumping her body into San Francisco Bay. If convicted, he could be sentenced to death or to life without parole. The jury can also consider lesser murder charges that carry prison terms of 15 years to life.
Prosecutors contend that the 32-year-old Peterson killed his wife to break free of a bad job and dull marriage with a baby on the way. A month before Laci Peterson was reported missing, Scott Peterson started an affair with Amber Frey, a Fresno massage therapist, who later became a star prosecution witness.
The jury began its work after a morning where the defense finished its summation and the prosecution gave its rebuttal.
Defense attorney Mark Geragos argued that the prosecution had failed to prove that the fertilizer salesman had killed his wife.
"They haven't done it and they can't do it," defense attorney Mark Geragos told jurors. "There is no evidence of it and you can't just say I'm going to convict him because he had an affair."
On Tuesday, Geragos blamed prosecutors for failing to thoroughly investigate the possibility that Laci had been kidnapped by someone else. He also speculated that Laci was killed "by more than one person."
In his reply, prosecutor Rick Distaso rejected those arguments, telling jurors: "It is not reasonable that anybody put those bodies in the bay to frame him. It is not reasonable and you must reject it."
In his summation, Geragos offered alternative explanations for the prosecution's evidence that allegedly showed that Peterson's wife had been smothered or strangled and then attached to concrete weights that Peterson had molded on a workbench.
"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, evidence such as a hair curling iron on a bathroom counter and home computer records showing that someone had perused advertisements for brightly colored umbrellas indicated that Laci was alive on Christmas Eve.
"A reasonable interpretation is that she mopped the floor and went outside to take the dog for a walk," he said. "Laci Peterson was alive on the 24th and something happened to her when Scott left" their Modesto home to go fishing.
Distaso denied the defense suggestions that there was evidence showing that Laci Peterson was alive on Dec. 24, 2002, or that there was no physical evidence of a struggle.
Geragos scoffed at the prosecution's contention that Laci was dumped into the bay in the same location where Peterson went fishing in a new boat on Christmas Eve. If Peterson was the killer, Geragos said, he would have taken the body to one of several Modesto-area lakes that are far deeper.