A judge on Wednesday sentenced Scott Peterson to die for the murder of his wife and their unborn child, upholding a jury's recommendation and describing the murders as "cruel, uncaring, heartless and callous."
Judge Alfred Delucchi had to decide whether to sentence Peterson to death or give him life in prison without the possibility of parole.
"The court is satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant, Scott Lee Peterson, is guilty of first-degree murder," Delucchi said.
‘Death is warranted’
"The factors in aggravation are so substantial when compared to the factors of mitigation that death is warranted," he added.
"It is hereby ordered that ... for the offense of the murder of Laci Peterson ... and the murder of Conner Peterson ... that the defendant Scott Lee Peterson shall be put to death," Delucchi said at the end of the hearing.
Shackled at the waist and wearing a dark suit, Peterson, 32, was earlier escorted into San Mateo County Superior Court under heavy security. Attorneys, reporters and relatives of both Scott and Laci Peterson packed the courtroom.
The judge allowed family members to speak, prompting a shouting match that led to Scott Peterson's father storming out.
Brent Rocha, Laci Peterson's brother, read a statement addressed to Peterson, saying that “your delusional life would have been over” if their child had been born.
“What a liar!” Scott Peterson’s father, Lee, responded before the judge admonished him. Lee Peterson then left the courtroom.
Sharon Rocha, Laci Peterson's mother, also spoke to Scott Peterson, saying, "How dare you murder her. She was my daughter. ... Laci loved you with all her heart."
‘You have no soul’
"You're nothing ... you have no soul," she added, saying that there is "a huge hole in my heart that will never heal. ... I miss being my daughter's mother. ... I'll never meet my grandson."
At least one juror wept as Rocha spoke, and she herself sobbed and trembled from a podium as she lashed out at her former son-in-law. Scott Peterson stared back at her without emotion.
“You decided to throw Laci and Conner away, dispose of them like they were just a piece of garbage,” she said. Dabbing at her eyes with tissues, she called him “an evil murderer.”
“The fact that you no longer wanted Laci did not give you the right to murder her,” Rocha said. “She was my daughter. ... I trusted you, and you betrayed me. ... You betrayed everybody.”
She finished by saying that "Laci was thinking, 'Scott why are you killing me? I want to be your wife. Please stop. I don't want to die.'"
Peterson declines to speak
Scott Peterson was invited to make a statement. After several minutes of discussion with his attorneys, he declined. He remained calm and showed no emotion during the hearing.
Peterson was convicted in November of first-degree murder in the killing of Laci and second-degree murder for the slaying of her fetus. A jury recommended the death penalty a month later.
The former fertilizer salesman will probably be sent within 48 hours to death row at San Quentin State Prison, overlooking the bay where Laci Peterson’s body was discarded, officials said. Peterson became the 644th person awaiting lethal injection in California.
Appeals could delay any execution for a decade or more.
Peterson’s attorney, Mark Geragos, tried to get the judge to allow Peterson’s parents, Jackie and Lee Peterson, to speak, on the basis that they were related to Conner.
But the judge said the hearing was an opportunity for Laci’s relatives to speak only. He ordered Scott Peterson to pay $10,000 restitution for funeral expenses and an additional $5,000, though the reason for that amount was unexplained.
Amber Frey, who had a relationship with Peterson shortly before his wife vanished and helped prosecutors with her testimony, told NBC's "Today" show earlier Wednesday that she wouldn't be in court. As for a punishment, she felt that life in prison would be harder on Peterson than a death penalty because he'd have to live with his actions for years to come.
Arguments for new trial
The judge at the start of the hearing dismissed defense motions for a new trial.
In court papers unsealed Monday, Peterson’s lawyers had requested a new trial. Geragos said Peterson’s telephone calls to Frey should not have been admitted. He said Peterson never implicated himself in the crime during the calls and that authorities should not have tapped his phone.
Geragos also claimed that prosecutors withheld evidence that a state prison inmate claimed he heard that Laci Peterson had interrupted a burglary at a neighbor’s home in Modesto on Dec. 24, 2002, the day she disappeared.
Scott Peterson claims he went fishing that day, and Geragos says the tip “points to the conclusion that Laci was alive after Scott left for the day.”
But prosecutor David Harris said the burglary happened two days after Laci Peterson’s disappearance. He said the evidence would not have changed the verdict.
Geragos said he became aware of the tip about six weeks before the verdict and later discovered “a small notation in hundreds of pages of tip sheets” provided by prosecutors before the trial.
Prosecutor: Tip was known year earlier
He said it took several weeks to investigate and prison tapes that would have confirmed the tips were no longer available.
“If the evidence were presented at a retrial, it is highly probable a different result would have occurred,” Geragos wrote.
Harris said the tip was provided to defense attorneys a year before the trial started. “His claim is reminiscent of the ’boy who cried wolf,”’ Harris said.
The motion for a new trial also claimed the judge erroneously dismissed two jurors, and erred in denying Geragos’ motion for a second change of venue.
Geragos also alleges that Frey, who wrote a book about the case, wanted to see Peterson convicted so that she could sell more copies.
Frey's lawyer, Gloria Allred, said she had filed an objection Wednesday morning against the allegation. "She was not planning a book at that time or discussing it," Allred told "Today."