Peterson Painted as a 'Monster'

Jurors in the Scott Peterson trial today began deliberating the fate of the convicted double murderer after hearing final arguments during which a prosecutor called him the "worst kind of monster" while the defense repeatedly begged to "spare his life."

The jury, which can recommend a sentence of death or life in prison, began their sequestered discussions shortly after 2 p.m. after receiving instructions from Judge Alfred A. Delucchi.

The jurors met for about two hours before retiring to an area hotel, according to Associated Press. They were scheduled to return to the courthouse Friday morning.

The deliberations began shortly after lead defense attorney Mark Geragos delivered an impassioned, hourlong final argument to sway the same jury that last month convicted Peterson of murdering his pregnant wife, Laci, nearly two years ago.

"I'm begging you, do not put Scott Peterson to death," Geragos said. "None of this is going to bring back Laci."

This morning, prosecutor David Harris ended his closing arguments by holding up photographs of the bodies of Peterson's wife and her fetus in the debris of a rocky San Francisco Bay shore.

"That is not something that should be rewarded by sparing his life," Harris said. The death penalty is "a hard choice, but it's the right choice."

Laci's mother, Sharon Rocha, leaned over and cried quietly during the presentation. Peterson's father, Lee, appeared uncomfortable and fidgeted.

Harris began his closing argument by reminding the jury that it had been almost two years since the Christmas Eve that Laci Peterson, 27 and eight months pregnant with a son they planned to name Conner, disappeared. Her body washed ashore four months later.

Harris recounted some of what came out during the six months of the trial, projecting photos of Laci Peterson's graduation, prom and other life events, of a transcription of Rocha's court testimony, and of a sonogram of the fetus. Scott Peterson, 32, "is not a man deserving of your sympathy. He is the worst kind of monster," Harris said.

If sentenced to life in prison, Harris said, "then he can write teenagers letters and give them Dear Abby advice. He can read books, better his chess game."

In their closing arguments, the defense kept reminding the jurors of the 39 witnesses who described the Scott Peterson they knew as a cheery little boy, a studious and well behaved teenager, and then a hardworking, entrepreneurial young man excited about becoming a father.

Defense attorney Pat Harris (no relation to David Harris) also mocked prosecutors for suggesting that "all these people had it wrong," but acknowledged that jurors must reconcile very different portraits of Peterson.

"You have just convicted him of a double murder," Harris said. "Then we turn around and tell you what a great person he is."

The attorney also appealed to any sense of doubt, given that the prosecutors failed to provide any physical evidence linking Peterson to the crime.

"In a circumstantial case, there is lingering doubt," Harris said. "The prosecution does not know when, where or how this crime was committed."

Geragos, who delivered his final arguments after Harris, stressed that a life sentence would be nearly as painful for Peterson, who would constantly be vulnerable to attacks by fellow inmates.

"While in that cell every day until he dies he's going to be a marked man," Geragos said.

For seven days in the penalty phase of the trial, the defense team worked to persuade the jury that life in prison is punishment enough for the former fertilizer salesman. Their last witness was Peterson's frail mother, who tearfully pleaded for her son's life, saying he could still do good from prison.

Peterson was found guilty on one count of first-degree murder in Laci's death, and one count of second-degree murder in the death of the fetus.

Times wire services contributed to this report.