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Peterson Jury Ends Deliberations for the Weekend
The jury in the Scott Peterson case failed today to reach a decision on whether to recommend a death or life in prison sentence and will resume deliberations Monday, the trial judge said.
San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Alfred A. Delucchi said the jury had asked for a weekend break, according to Associated Press. Jurors, who spent all day and part of Thursday discussing the sentence, will remain sequestered at an area hotel.
If jurors recommend a death sentence, Delucchi has the option of sending Peterson to prison for life when he renders a formal sentencing Feb. 25. However, if the jury recommends life in prison, Delucchi cannot change the sentence.
Prosecutors, in closing arguments Thursday, labeled Peterson "the worst kind of monster" because "he's the kind that no one ever sees coming." His defense attorneys, however, insisted that "to kill him at this point serves absolutely no purpose."
Peterson, 32, was convicted Nov. 12 of first-degree murder for the killing of his wife, Laci, and second-degree murder for the killing of their unborn son, Conner.
Four months after she disappeared on Christmas Eve 2002, her body and the body of the fetus washed up on a rocky shore along San Francisco Bay.
At the end of his closing arguments, prosecutor David Harris held up photographs of the ravaged corpses. "That is not something that should be rewarded by sparing his life," he said.
"The death penalty," he said, is "a hard choice, but it's the right choice."
Laci's mother, Sharon Rocha, leaned over and cried quietly during the presentation, which was punctuated with photographs from Laci's life and images of her husband partying with his girlfriend, Fresno massage therapist Amber Frey.
On the opposite side of the courtroom, Scott Peterson's father, Lee, appeared uncomfortable and fidgeted.
It has been nearly two years since Laci Peterson, 27 and eight months pregnant, disappeared. Her body was discovered near the spot where Scott Peterson said he had gone fishing on the day she was reported missing.
Harris recounted highlights of Laci's life, showing photos of her as a little girl, at her high school graduation and at her prom. He also displayed enlarged transcriptions of her mother's heart-wrenching court testimony and the only photo of Conner, a grainy sonogram of the fetus.
Scott Peterson "is not a man deserving of your sympathy," Harris said. If sentenced to life in prison, he said, "then he can read books, write letters all the things that Laci and Conner would have loved to do; all the things that Laci's family would love to be able to share with Laci and Conner."
Final defense arguments were delivered by Mark Geragos who, in an uncharacteristically humble stance, literally begged the jury to spare his client's life at least five times and began his remarks with a confession: "I feel like I let my client down."
Before he began speaking, Geragos set up a poster board listing legal terms intended to support his argument. One column showed "mitigating factors," facts that argued for sparing his client's life. Another column listed "aggravating factors," those that argue for a death sentence.
The jurors, who often sat impassively during the trial, became animated, pointing at the posters boards and giggling.
Geragos, undeterred, said he felt personally responsible when the jury returned a guilty verdict after less than six hours of deliberations. He also apologized for not preparing for the penalty phase.
"I did not consider Scott Peterson to be a monster. I did not consider Scott Peterson to be a pathological liar, or a manipulator," he told the jury.
In any case, he said, "I'm not second-guessing any of your decisions. What we're saying is his life has value."
Geragos told the jurors that sentencing Peterson to life in a "prison cell roughly the size of a king-sized bed" would be punishment enough for the former fertilizer salesman from Modesto.
"And while he's in that cell every single day until he dies," Geragos said, "he knows that if he tries to leave for 15 minutes to exercise or take a shower, he'll have to look over his shoulder at all times; that he's in danger at any moment from some prisoner administering the death penalty on him."
Beyond that, he said, there inevitably would come a time when a guard will "bang on the door of his cell and say, 'Peterson, your mother is dead.' A year, six months after that, another guard would bang on the door and say, 'Peterson, you father is dead.'."
In barely audible tones, Geragos concluded his remarks saying, "I just beg you, and thank you, and ask you humbly to vote for life."
The defense team's last witness was Scott Peterson's frail mother, Jackie, who on Wednesday tearfully pleaded for her son's life, saying he could still do good from prison. She followed 38 relatives and friends who over six days testified that Peterson was a caring person who loved golf and his family.
The prosecution, however, painted him to be a liar and philanderer who smothered or strangled his wife a month after starting an affair with Frey.
The prosecution's final witness was Laci's mother, who last week glared at her former son-in-law and screamed, "Divorce is always an option, not murder!"
Times wire services contributed to this report