Redwood City recovers from Peterson trial

It's the day after the death sentence verdict in Redwood City. The community's name has become almost as well known as that of the man who was tried here: Scott Peterson.

The 32-year-old's trial was moved from his home in Modesto in Stanislaus County to Redwood City in San Mateo County.

The community south of San Francisco became the recipient of more than just the court proceedings. It also inherited the influx of journalists, cameras and satellite trucks that have trailed the story since Peterson's pregnant wife, Laci, went missing in December 2002.

On the day the six-man, six-woman jury returned with a verdict in the penalty phase of the double murder trial, the area around the county courthouse looked like a venue where a rock star might appear.

Hundreds of onlookers held video cameras high above their heads, and fathers carried children on their shoulders for a better view as attorneys and families involved in the case walked to and from the county courthouse.

Less than a day later, it’s a completely different scene.

Crowds gone
The crowds are gone, barricades are coming down, and areas set up as impromptu television studios are being dismantled. 

Left in its wake, is a community of 75,000 people. Mortgage broker Chris Harris is among them.

Harris said he was ready for it to be over. "I think it will bring back a sense of normalcy to this small little area we call downtown," said Harris. "The people who came here were nice, but it was a little annoying in terms of traffic flow and such." 

Harris said he realizes it's given Redwood City more name recognition. "I think a lot of people have heard of us now, but I don't think anyone's going to move here because of it."

The proceedings have brought more than just name recognition to San Mateo County.

There were huge costs associated with hosting the trial — everything from housing Peterson in the county jail for the last year, to extra security, to overtime for sheriff's deputies. The price tag has been estimated at more than a million dollars.

Some funds have been received from Stanislaus County, where the trial was moved from. Much more, however, has yet to be reimbursed, according to San Mateo County officials.

Attorney Adam Kent's law office is less than 100 feet from where all of the television satellite trucks were parked for weeks.

"I'm very relieved it's over," said Kent. "It was difficult for my clients to find parking near my office.  Even more frustrating, though, was trying to get into my favorite lunch spot." 

Kent said Peterson’s defense attorney Mark Geragos often ate at Bob's Courthouse Coffee Shop, making it difficult for regulars to get a seat.

Sensational trial now history
Kent said this isn't the first time he's watched the media hurricane descend on Redwood City.

In 1976, Patty Hearst was held at the San Mateo County jail — the same facility where Scott Peterson is now. Hearst, the heiress and granddaughter of the legendary newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst, was kidnapped by a radical group, the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), and made national headlines when she joined the group in a series of crimes.

"Yes, I guess the Peterson trial has put us on the map, but like when Patty Hearst was here, it's only for a small period of time," said Kent.

Financial windfall for just a few
Initial predictions indicated the Peterson trial might provide a financial windfall for the area, but only a few merchants said it made a difference.

Many reporters commuted from San Francisco and other cities. Some arriving from out of state booked hotels in nearby communities.

Hot dog vendor Tony Ito said the Peterson trial was great for his business. He's been bringing his cart to a corner near the courthouse for the last two years.

Ito said the last six months have been his best. "On a normal day, maybe I have 30 customers," said Ito. "Yesterday, I had more than one hundred. I'm sorry it's over."

But, Harris disagreed. "I don't know how much money the area gained or lost on this," he said. "But the decision to put someone to death — that takes a toll on all of us."