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MSNBC-TV: ‘In some ways, very sad’

Janet Shamlian, MSNBC-TV’s correspondent at the Scott Peterson trial, discusses the jury’s recommendation in the sentencing phase of the trial.
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Janet Shamlian, MSNBC-TV’s correspondent covering the Scott Peterson trial, discusses the jury’s recommendation Monday that Peterson be executed: After observing this jury for so many months, were you surprised by its recommendation?

Janet Shamlian: I was not surprised after the request for additional evidence this morning. That evidence that the jury wanted to see were pictures of Laci 10 days before her death, pictures of Laci that were autopsy photos, photos taken from the site where her boy was found, where Conner’s body was found — very emotional type of evidence being brought back before the jury. When they requested this type of evidence, it seemed like they might be headed in this direction. Was there a particular turning point that influenced the jury’s decision?

Janet Shamlian: It seems that the testimony of Laci’s mother, Sharon Rocha, was probably the turning point in the penalty phase. Reporters were touched by this. People who were generally neutral couldn’t help but relate to a mother hearing the news of her daughter’s death, praying over her casket. Jurors wept, but so did many others.

At that moment, it seemed that Laci’s mother made a connection with the jury, with everyone who heard her testimony. That may have turned the tide in favor of the death penalty. What was the reaction outside the courthouse?

Janet Shamlian: Several hundred people were gathered outside the courthouse. These were members of the public, casual observers. Unlike in the initial part of the trial — when the jury found him guilty, there was a large cheer from the crowd — this time, when the verdict was announced for death, there was a much more subdued reaction. Several hundred people — a few cheered, a few cried; overall it was reflective of the decision that was handed down: very quiet, very subdued, in some ways very sad. How likely is Judge Delucchi to follow the jury’s recommendation?

Janet Shamlian: It appears that the judge is very likely to follow the sentencing guidelines handed down by the jury. He has not before reversed in a case of this magnitude, and really, unless there are mitigating circumstances, the judge will usually go with what the jury decides. He knows how much time and emotion they have put into this. What happens next for Scott Peterson? Where will he go now?

Janet Shamlian: Scott will stay here at the county jail in San Mateo County until late February, when Judge Delucchi actually hands down the final punishment. After that point, he will be taken to San Quentin, which coincidentally overlooks the same area where Laci’s body was found.