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San Quentin doors clang shut behind Peterson

Less than a day after being sentenced to die, murderer Scott Peterson was taken before dawn Thursday to San Quentin State Prison — located overlooking San Francisco Bay, where the corpses of his wife Laci and unborn son were found.
Scott Peterson Mug Shot
In this handout image provided by the California Department of Corrections, convicted murderer Scott Peterson poses for a mug shot Thursday in San Quentin.Getty Images / Getty Images
/ Source: NBC News and news services

Less than a day after being sentenced to execution, Scott Peterson was taken before dawn Thursday to San Quentin State Prison — located overlooking San Francisco Bay, where the corpses of his wife Laci and unborn son were found.

Peterson becomes the 644th prisoner awaiting death in the execution chamber at San Quentin State Prison.

Peterson, who was sentenced to death Wednesday, left the San Mateo County jail to San Quentin at 3:10 a.m. Thursday. Secured with leg irons and shackles around his wrists and waist and wearing a V-neck orange shirt and pants and wearing toeless sandals, Peterson was led away in a white, unmarked van for drive from Redwood City, south of San Francisco, to the prison, about 20 miles north of the city.

The 32-year-old former fertilizer salesman entered San Quentin, shortly after 4 a.m.

Wearing a bulletproof vest
Prison officials had Peterson remove his clothing and a bulletproof vest supplied by the sheriff for his safety, San Quentin spokesman Lt. Vernell Crittendon said on NBC’s “Today” show. A body search, medical exam and DNA test were conducted, and a photo was taken for identification.

“During the process, there were moments where he would give that nervous smile,” Crittendon said, adding that Peterson was. “extremely polite.”

He told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that a staffer suggested to Peterson that he would take a nap and Peterson replied, “No, I’m just too jazzed.”

Peterson was to get a shower, a haircut and state-issued clothing and will be assigned an identification number. Then, a counselor will classify him according to his criminal, educational, medical and psychological histories — a process that could take several weeks.

“Grade B” prisoners, deemed a threat to themselves or others, get limited privileges — just 10 hours a week of outdoor exercise, alone in a small cage.

“From what I hear, he hasn’t given the staff (at the jail in Redwood City) any problems,” Corrections Department spokeswoman Terry Thornton said, so this classification may be unlikely for Peterson.

Likely to be a ‘Grade A’ prisoner
“Grade A” inmates are allowed to spend five hours a day outside in a common yard, where they can exercise and play chess. They can have showers three times a week, attend religious services and receive mail, phone calls and visitors. The prisoners also may keep a television — which they pay for themselves — in their cells.

This undated handout photo from the Modesto (Calif.) Police Department shows Laci Peterson, center, and her husband, Scott. Scott Peterson was arrested in San Diego on Friday, April 18, 2003, in connection with the Christmas Eve disappearance of his pregnant wife. (AP Photo/Modesto Police Department Handout) **FOR EDITORIAL USE IN CONNECTION WITH PETERSON TRIAL ONLY**

Most of the state’s condemned prisoners are housed at San Quentin. San Quentin also houses 5,300 other prisoners, but they don’t interact with the condemned inmates. Fifteen condemned women are at the Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla, but they would be brought to San Quentin to be executed.

Death row, built in 1934 and designed to handle 68 inmates, is actually three buildings. In the original death row, now reserved for the most senior and well-behaved men, inmates walk around a small common area secured by bars and doors. Amenities include a tiled shower room.

In one of the makeshift death rows — a building known as East Block, where Peterson will most likely live — inmates stay locked in their 5-by-9-foot cells, except when they are outside. There are no common areas; the cells are stacked in tiers fronted by narrow walkways.

No shower room
There also is no shower room, so two regular cells on each tier have been converted into showers. Plastic sheeting taped to the bars keeps most of the water from spraying onto the tiers below, but a steady stream of water slides down nonetheless.

Peterson received his death sentence more than two years after his eight-months-pregnant wife disappeared on Christmas Eve 2002. Prosecutors said Peterson killed her and then dumped her body in San Francisco Bay. The badly decomposed bodies of Laci and her fetus washed ashore four months later.

Still, there is no telling whether Peterson will ever receive a lethal injection. Of the 38 states with the death penalty, California moves the slowest toward executions. As a result, condemned inmates here are more likely to die in prison.

Peterson likely will sit for more than five years before he is appointed an attorney for his first, mandatory appeal to the California Supreme Court.

A big reason for the delays is that there are too many inmates with too few lawyers willing to volunteer for the relatively low-paying job. Peterson joins about 120 others who do not yet have lawyers. And even when an attorney is appointed, there are no deadlines for California’s high court to act.

‘Cruel, uncaring, heartless and callous’
In sentencing Peterson to die on Wednesday, San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Alfred Delucchi described the murders as "cruel, uncaring, heartless and callous."

"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.

Earlier, 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'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."

Peterson declines to address court
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’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.

The judge at the start of the hearing dismissed defense motions for a new trial.