Wed, Dec 15, 2004 - Page 7 News List

California killer gets death sentence

AP , Redwood City, California

Edie Alejandre, a carrier for the San Francisco Examiner, hands out copies of the newspaper's special edition headlining the death sentence in the Scott Peterson trial outside the San Mateo County Courthouse.


Repelled by Scott Peterson's seeming lack of sorrow and remorse, a jury decided he deserves the death penalty for murdering his pregnant wife, Laci, almost two years ago to the date.

A cheer went up outside the courthouse as the jury announced its decision Monday after 11 hours of deliberations over three days. Inside court, Peterson reacted with the same tight-jawed look that some jurors said turned them off after seeing little emotion out of Peterson since his wife's disappearance two years ago.

"I still would have liked to see, I don't know if remorse is the right word," juror Steve Cardosi said at a news conference following the sentence. "He lost his wife and his child -- it didn't seem to faze him. While that was going on ... he is romancing a girlfriend."

A crowd of several hundred gathered outside the courthouse for the verdict -- a scene reminiscent of when about 1,000 people showed up last month to hear the conviction. The San Francisco Examiner came out with a special edition within minutes of the sentence, with the giant headline "DEATH."

Laci Peterson's mother, Sharon Rocha, cried quietly -- her lips quivering after the verdict was read. Scott Peterson's mother, Jackie, showed no apparent emotion.

In a brief news conference after the verdict, defense attorney Mark Geragos said he was "very disappointed."

"Obviously, we plan on pursuing every and all appeals, motions for a new trial and everything else," he said.

The jury had two options in deciding the 32-year-old former fertilizer salesman's fate: life in prison without parole or death by injection.

Judge Alfred Delucchi will formally sentence Peterson on Feb. 25. The judge will have the option of reducing the sentence to life, but such a move is highly unlikely.

If the judge agrees with the verdict, Peterson will be sent to death row at San Quentin State Prison outside San Francisco, the infamous lockup that overlooks the same bay where Laci Peterson's body was discarded.

But Peterson still might not be executed for decades -- if ever -- and it can take years for even the first phase of the appeals process to begin. Since California brought back capital punishment in 1978, only 10 executions have been carried out; the last execution, in 2002, was for a murder committed in 1980. The state's clogged death row houses 641 people.

The sentence marked one of the final chapters in a soap opera-like saga that began nearly two years ago with the Christmas Eve disappearance of Laci Peterson, a 27-year-old substitute teacher who married her college sweetheart and was soon to be the proud mother of a baby boy named Conner.

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