In a scene fitting for a TV drama, Scott Peterson’s lawyer begged jurors not to sentence his client to death for killing his pregnant wife.
“All that’s being asked of you is to punish him with life without parole,” defense attorney Mark Geragos told the six men and six women Thursday. “Just don’t kill him. That’s all I am asking of you. End this cycle.”
The jurors also heard an impassioned plea from prosecutor Dave Harris on the final day of the penalty phase of Peterson’s murder trial. They deliberated two hours before retiring to a hotel for the night. They resumed their work Friday.
The former fertilizer salesman faces either the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole for the 2002 murders of his pregnant wife, Laci, and the 8-month-old fetus she was carrying.
“This is somebody who had everything and threw it away,” Harris said of Peterson, 32. “He had a plan and he executed it.”
The state maintains Peterson smothered or strangled Laci 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 claims to have been fishing alone the day his wife vanished.
Harris reminded the jurors of the 39 witnesses called to testify on Peterson’s behalf during the penalty phase; he called only four, all members of Laci’s family.
“Thirty-nine witnesses,” Harris said. “And those 39 witnesses pretty much all said the same thing: ’This man who sits here, this convicted double murderer, is not the man that I know.”’
He walked over to the defense table, stood directly in front of Peterson and pointed at him. “They didn’t know the real Scott. ... That he’s a manipulator. That he’s a liar.”
The prosecutor then showed a television news segment recorded before Peterson was arrested in which he sobbed uncontrollably and talked about how much he missed his wife.
“He played the part of a grieving husband,” Harris said. “The great fraud. He turned on tears and played the part. ... He’s not a person who deserves your sympathy.”
Geragos stressed what the 39 witnesses had testified to — that Peterson lived a good, charitable life for the 30 years before the murders.
He also reminded jurors about the harsh conditions Peterson would endure in prison.
“He will stay in that cell every single day until he dies,” Geragos said. “He’s going to have to look over his shoulder at all times. ... He’s going to be a marked man.
“Some guard’s going to walk by and bang on the door ... and say, ’Peterson, your mom’s dead.”’
Jackie Peterson, Scott Peterson’s mother, seated in the first row of the gallery directly behind her son, cried and wiped her eyes with a tissue.
Said Geragos: “There does not need to be any more death in this case.”