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Scott Peterson’s Mother Asks Jury to Spare Him From the Death Penalty

Times Staff Writer

The mother of convicted double murderer Scott Peterson on Wednesday tearfully implored a jury to spare his life, saying he could still do positive things in prison and that execution “would be such a waste, irreversible.”

Jackie Peterson, who suffers from respiratory problems, looked frail and spoke for 45 minutes in a soft but steady voice that cracked at times. She paused occasionally to wipe tears from her eyes, and testified without breathing from the oxygen tank she normally uses.

At times, she smiled lovingly at her son, who was convicted of murdering his wife, Laci, and their unborn son, Conner, on Christmas Eve 2002.

Jackie Peterson’s testimony ended the defense portion of the penalty phase, and final arguments are scheduled for today. Judge Alfred A. Delucchi then will give instructions to the jury before it begins deliberating whether to recommend death or life in prison without parole.

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Asked by defense attorney Mark Geragos to describe the impact of the case on her family, she said, “We feel like we’re just shells in front of you. Coming here every day; nothing left inside of us.”

“I really feel if you were to take Scott away from us,” she told the jury, pausing to compose herself. “They were like family, Laci, Conner and Scott. It would be a whole family wiped off the face of the Earth.”

In a court face-off that some have dubbed “the battle of tears,” her appearance was a bookend to that of Laci’s mother, Sharon Rocha, at the start of the penalty phase of Peterson’s trial.

Rocha’s chilling testimony had at least eight jurors crying. At one point, she yelled through tears at her son-in-law: “Divorce is always an option, not murder!”

Early in her testimony Wednesday, Jackie Peterson chronicled her own life as an orphan whose father was killed in a robbery and later as a mother trying to cope with severe respiratory problems.

But she smiled broadly as she recounted such memories as her son’s interest in gardening, his good grades and perfect attendance in school, and active interest in helping the poor.

Peterson could continue to do positive things for others from prison if spared execution, she said.

“I beg you to consider that, how he helps people, always has,” she told the jury. “In this trial you heard about ... his wife and baby being ripped from him ... all his world taken away, stalked by the media, harassed by the police, and painted as a devil to the public.

“He’s not that, never has been that. He’s always been a genuinely loving, caring, nurturing, kind, gentle person.”

The defense effort to persuade the jurors that Peterson’s life is worth saving has built slowly through the recollections of more than 30 witnesses who expressed fears for the health of Peterson’s mother. Three of those witnesses bluntly questioned the jury’s verdict.

Some court watchers, however, were not impressed.

“I was surprised,” said lawyer Dean Murphy. “This should have been the most dramatic moment in this trial. But I looked at the jury and there wasn’t a tearful eye in the house.

“When a mother is fighting for her son’s life, to see a jury that cold is a very bad sign.”

Murphy also criticized Peterson for leaving a “gaping hole in their argument: Why did the perfect person the defense has told us so much about become a murderer?”


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