Scott Peterson could be a good influence on fellow prison inmates if jurors spare his life, Peterson’s half-brother testified Friday in the penalty phase of the former fertilizer salesman’s trial.
“Scott is a person you want to be around in any circumstances,” Joe Peterson said. “He’s a listener, a talker, someone that cares. He’s just got so much to share that there would definitely be a positive.”
Scott Peterson was convicted Nov. 12 of murder in the deaths of his eight-months pregnant wife, Laci, and her fetus.
Prosecutors claim he smothered or strangled his wife in their Modesto home on or around Christmas Eve 2002, then dumped her weighted body into San Francisco Bay. The remains of Laci and the fetus were discovered about four months later along a shoreline a few miles from where Peterson says he was fishing alone the day his wife vanished.
Testimony on Friday, the fourth day of the penalty phase, turned briefly to Peterson’s love for fishing — a strategy legal experts said could backfire.
Joe Peterson said his younger brother took up fishing at age 5 and “always loved being around the water, being on the shoreline.”
Defense lawyer Pat Harris displayed a picture of a young Scott Peterson holding a fishing rod.
Legal analysts questioned the move.
“Testimony should not remind them any more than necessary of this underlying crime,” said Dean Johnson, a former prosecutor and trial observer.
Joe Peterson also described for jurors how he and Scott always wanted “to please our parents ... wanting to do the best we can do.” He began to cry and wiped his eyes with a tissue. Scott Peterson also wept, wiping his eyes.
Jurors listened with grim expressions. One sat impassively with his arms crossed over his chest. Another appeared to be doodling in her notebook.
Asked whether he could imagine his brother having committed the crime, Joe Peterson said, “Not my brother, absolutely not.”
Earlier, the mother of one of Scott Peterson’s high school friends described the convicted murderer as a “caring, sweet, loving boy ... somebody that I was proud to have as my son’s friend.”
Conception Fritz said Peterson was “a gentle man ... caring, considerate. That’s the Scott we know.”
Defense attorneys want to persuade jurors to spare Peterson’s life with testimony about his childhood and the effect an execution would have on his relatives. Jurors could also sentence Peterson to life in prison without parole.
Defense attorneys told the judge Friday they planned to call about 20 more witnesses. Judge Alfred A. Delucchi told jurors to expect testimony into Tuesday, perhaps Wednesday, before closing arguments.
Experts cautioned that dragging out testimony so close to Christmas could hurt the defense.
“It reminds them that just a couple of years ago on that very day, in cold blood, he murdered his pregnant wife and dumped her in the bay,” said former San Francisco prosecutor Jim Hammer.