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Scott Lee Peterson
Born October 24, 1972 (1972-10-24) (age 37)
San Diego, California, US
Conviction(s) First degree murder
Penalty Death sentence
Status Incarcerated in San Quentin State Prison
Spouse Laci Peterson (1975-2002) (m. 1997–2002) «start: (1997)–end+1: (2003)»"Marriage: Laci Peterson (1975-2002) to Scott Peterson" Location: (linkback:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scott_Peterson)
Parents Jacqueline Helen Latham and Lee Arthur Peterson

Scott Lee Peterson (born October 24, 1972) is an American who was convicted of the murder of his wife, Laci Peterson, and their unborn child. Peterson's case dominated the American media for many months.

In 2005, Peterson was sentenced to death by lethal injection. He remains on death row in San Quentin State Prison while his case is on appeal to the Supreme Court of California. He maintains his innocence.

Contents

Early life

Peterson was born in San Diego, California to Lee Arthur Peterson (born May 9, 1939) and his wife, the former Jacqueline Helen Latham (born September 16, 1943).[1] Peterson's father worked for a trucking company, and later owned a crate-packaging business. His mother owned a boutique in La Jolla, California, called The Put On.

Peterson worked in a San Luis Obispo cafe as a waiter while attending Cal Poly, when he met Laci where he was a member of the Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity. The couple married in August 1997.

Disappearance of Laci Peterson

On December 24, 2002, Laci Peterson was reported missing from their Modesto, California home. She was eight months pregnant with a due date of February 10, 2003, and the couple had planned to name the baby, a boy, Conner Peterson. The exact date and cause of death of Laci was never determined. Peterson initially reported his wife missing on Christmas Eve, and the story quickly attracted nationwide media interest.[2][3][4][5]

The Modesto police did not immediately identify Peterson as a prime suspect, largely because Laci's family and friends maintained their faith in his innocence during the initial month after Laci's disappearance.[6] However, it was then that police grew more suspicious of him due to inconsistencies in his story. On January 17, it became known that Peterson had numerous extramarital affairs,[7] most recently with a massage therapist named Amber Frey. She had requested police assistance when she became suspicious that the man she had just begun to date had not been honest with her after she learned that he was actually married to a missing woman. At this point, Laci's family announced that they withdrew their support of Peterson. They later said that they were angered not by the affair, but that Peterson had told Frey that he'd "lost" his wife and that he would be spending his first Christmas without his wife--15 days before Laci disappeared. To the Rochas, this meant that Peterson had already planned to kill Laci long before her disappearance.[8]

Frey became a key witness in the case against Peterson when she agreed to let the police tape their subsequent phone conversations in hopes of getting him to confess.[9] Despite this, Peterson was not recorded making any confession to Frey.

Frey told the police that two weeks before Laci's disappearance, Peterson had implied to her that he was a widower by saying that he had "lost his wife."[10] During the trial, the audio recordings of Peterson and Frey's telephone conversations were played, and the transcripts were publicized. Their contents proved to be both revealing and, ultimately, damning to Peterson's character. For example, they revealed that in the days after Laci went missing, Peterson claimed to Amber that he had traveled to Paris to celebrate the holidays, in part with his new companions Pasqual and François. In reality, Peterson made one of these phone calls while attending the New Year's Eve candlelight vigil in Modesto for his missing wife.[11]

Recovery of bodies

On April 14, 2003, a male fetus washed ashore from San Francisco Bay in Richmond's Point Isabel Regional Shoreline,[12] north of the Berkeley Marina, where Peterson had been boating the day of Laci's disappearance. The next day, a partial female torso missing its hands, feet, and head washed ashore in the same area. The body was identified as Laci Peterson, the fetus as Laci's. Autopsies were performed, but due to decomposition the specific cause of death could not be determined. The medical examiner did note that Laci had suffered some broken ribs (the 5th, 6th, and 9th ribs) prior to her death; these injuries were not caused by the body dragging along the rocks in the bay. Prosecutors theorized that Laci may have been suffocated or strangled[13] in the couple's home. The FBI and Modesto Police Department performed forensic searches of the couple's home, Peterson's truck, the tool box in the back of his truck, his warehouse, and his boat. The only piece of forensic evidence identified was a single hair, thought to belong to Laci, found in a pair of pliers from Peterson's boat.[14]

Arrest

Peterson was arrested by Detective Taylor Burlingame on April 18, 2003 in La Jolla, California, in the parking lot of the Torrey Pines Golf Course, where he said he was meeting his father, brother, and Zak O'Regan for a game of golf. At the time of his arrest, Peterson was in possession of the following non-golf specific items: approximately $15,000 in cash; four cell phones; multiple credit cards belonging to various members of his family; an array of camping equipment, including knives, implements for warming food, tents and tarpaulins and also a water purifier; a dozen pairs of shoes; several changes of clothing; a t-handled double-edged dagger; a MapQuest map to Frey's workplace (printed the previous day); a shovel; rope; 24 blister packs of sleeping pills; Viagra; and his brother's driver's license.[15] His hair and goatee had been dyed blond, although he claimed the lighter hair color was the result of chlorine from swimming in a friend's pool. (The pool's owner later testified that, to his knowledge, Peterson had never swum in his pool, or made use of his hot tub.) [16]

Trial

Prior to his arraignment, Peterson had been represented by veteran Criminal Defense Attorney from Modesto, California, Kirk McAllister. McAllister had met with Peterson prior to Peterson's arraignment. When Peterson was arraigned, he told Judge Nancy Ashley that he could not afford the services of a private attorney. Judge Nancy Ashley then appointed Tim Bazar from the Stanislaus County Public Defender's Office.[17] Chief Deputy Public Defender Kent Faulkner was also one of the attorneys assigned to the case.[18] Subsequently, Peterson indicated that he had sufficient funds to hire private counsel and attorney Mark Geragos, who had done other high-profile criminal defense work, became his lawyer.[18]

On January 20, 2004, due to increasing hostility to Peterson in the Modesto area, a judge moved Peterson's trial from Modesto to Redwood City, California.[19]

The trial, the People of the State of California vs. Scott Peterson, began in June 2004 and was followed closely by the media. The lead prosecutor was Rick Distaso, and Geragos led Peterson's defense.

Prosecution witness Amber Frey engaged her own attorney, Gloria Allred, to protect her from the news media. Allred was not bound by the gag order imposed on everyone else involved in the trial. Although she maintained that her client had no opinion as to whether Peterson was guilty, Allred was openly sympathetic to the prosecution. She appeared frequently on television news programs during the trial[20]. Allred played a key role in keeping many facts about her client's past from the public eye.[21]

Peterson's defense lawyers based his case on the lack of direct evidence, and downplaying the significance of circumstantial evidence.[22] They suggested that the remains of the fetus were that of a full-term infant, and theorized that someone else had kidnapped Laci, held her until she gave birth, and then dumped both bodies in the bay. However, the prosecution's medical experts were able to prove that the baby had never grown to full term, and died at the same time as his mother.[23] Geragos suggested that a Satanic cult kidnapped the pregnant woman.[24] He also claimed that Peterson was "a cad"[22] for cheating on his pregnant wife, but not a murderer.

Early in the trial, one juror was removed due to juror misconduct and was replaced by an alternate, this on a complaint by CourtTV. A videotape showed the juror and Brent Rocha, Laci Peterson's older brother, speaking as they passed one another in the courthouse.[25] Later, during jury deliberations, the jury foreman, attorney Gregory Jackson, also requested his own removal, most likely because his fellow jurors wanted to replace him as foreman.[26] Geragos told reporters that Jackson had mentioned threats he had received when he requested to be removed from the jury.[27] Jackson was also replaced by an alternate. On November 12 the reconstituted jury convicted Peterson of first-degree murder with special circumstances for killing Laci and second-degree murder for killing the unborn baby she carried. The penalty phase of the trial began on November 30 and concluded December 13, when at 1:50 P.M. PST, the twelve-person jury recommended a death sentence for Peterson.

In later press appearances, members of the jury stated that they felt that Peterson's demeanor—specifically, his lack of emotion, and the phone calls to Amber Frey in the days following Laci's disappearance—indicated that he was guilty. They based their verdict on "hundreds of small 'puzzle pieces' of circumstantial evidence that came out during the trial, from the location of Laci Peterson's body to the myriad of lies her husband told after her disappearance." They also decided on the death penalty because they felt Peterson betrayed his responsibility to protect his wife and son.[28]

Evidence

In order to avoid recognition by the press, Peterson changed his appearance and purchased a vehicle using his mother's name. He added two hardcore pornography television channels to his cable service only days after his wife's disappearance;[29] the prosecution suggested that this meant Peterson knew his wife would not be returning home. He expressed interest in selling the house he had shared with his wife,[30] and did sell Laci's Land Rover.[31]

Testimony for the prosecution included Ralph Cheng, a hydrologist with the United States Geological Survey, and an expert witness on tides, particularly of the San Francisco Bay. Cheng admitted during his cross-examination that his findings were "probable, not precise";[32] tidal systems are sufficiently chaotic, and he was unable to develop an exact model of the bodies' disposal and travel. The prosecution explored an affair by the defendant with Amber Frey, and the contents of their taped telephone calls.[33]

Geragos seemed quite confident that Dr. Charles March could single-handedly exonerate Peterson, by showing that the fetus Laci carried died a week after prosecutors claimed that the fetus died. Under cross-examination, March admitted basing his findings on an anecdote from one of Laci's friends that she had taken a home pregnancy test on June 9, 2002. "Prosecutors pointed out that no medical records relied on the June 9 date and March became flustered and confused on the stand -- and even asked a prosecutor to cut him 'some slack' -- undermining his credibility."[34] Summing up this key defense witness, Stan Goldman, a criminal law professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles said, "There were moments today that reminded me of Chernobyl."[35]

Motives

The prosecution presented Scott Peterson's affair with Amber Frey and money as a motive for the murder. Prosecutors surmised that Peterson killed his pregnant wife due to increasing debt and a desire to be with Frey.[36]

Sentencing

On March 16, 2005, Judge Alfred A. Delucchi formally sentenced Peterson to death, calling the murder of his wife "cruel, uncaring, heartless, and callous."[37] The prescribed method of execution was lethal injection. He also denied the defense's request (which was based on evidence of juror misconduct and media influence) for a new trial and ordered Peterson to pay $10,000 towards the cost of Laci Peterson's funeral.

In the early morning hours of March 17, 2005, Peterson arrived at San Quentin State Prison. Peterson was reported not to have slept the night before, being too 'jazzed' to sleep, calling some to question his state of mind.[38][39] Peterson joined other inmates in California's sole death row facility while his case is on automatic appeal to the Supreme Court of California in Sacramento. National Geographic did a documentary on San Quentin prison, and Scott Peterson's entry was covered in Part Two of the documentary.[40]

Aftermath

A made-for-TV film about the case starring Dean Cain was later broadcast in 2004.[41]

Another made-for-TV film, starring Nathan Anderson portraying Scott Peterson in Amber Frey: Witness for the Prosecution opposite Janel Moloney as Amber Frey, broadcast on May 25, 2005 on CBS.

In January 2005, days after the initial guilty verdict was handed down, Amber Frey released a book about her experiences with Peterson. Laci's family criticized her for placing her photograph between Scott's and Laci's on the covers of her book.[42]

Among Peterson's prison correspondents is Richelle Nice, a member of the jury in his case dubbed "Strawberry Shortcake" by trial observers for her red hair, who initially wrote to Peterson at the advice of her therapist.[43][44]

In 2007, attorney and personal friend of Peterson's, Donna Thomas released the book I'm Sorry I Lied To You: The Confession of Scott Peterson. In the book Thomas claims that during a visit with Peterson at San Quentin, Peterson slipped and later confessed to the murder of Laci Peterson. Peterson's lawyers in December of 2007 stated to the Associated Press that Thomas and Peterson did indeed know each other; however, they would not elaborate any further on Thomas' claims. Thomas and her book were featured prominently in the National Enquirer on December 24, 2007, again in the Enquirer on August 4, 2008, the National Examiner August 18, 2008, and the Globe November 19, 2007. Thomas also appeared on the television show Business Beat Live with host John Troland, speaking about her book and her interactions with Peterson. Thomas was set to testify against Peterson in the wrongful death civil trial brought about by Laci's parents, Dennis and Sharon Rocha, but the lawsuit was dropped before Thomas was able to testify. Thomas's book created a lot of controversy as to whether Peterson actually confessed to Thomas. However, no lawsuits for libel were filed against Thomas, or the publisher, by any parties in the Peterson matter.

Books about the case

  • A Deadly Game: The Untold Story of the Scott Peterson Investigation by Catherine Crier, Cole Thompson (2005) ISBN 0060766123
  • Blood Brother: 33 Reasons My Brother Scott Peterson Is Guilty by Anne Bird (2005 Regan Books)
  • Dr. Henry Lee's Forensic Files: Five Famous Cases Scott Peterson, Elizabeth Smart, and more... by Henry C. Lee, Jerry Labriola (2006) ISBN 1591024099
  • Presumed Guilty: What the Jury Never Knew About Laci Peterson's Murder and Why Scott Peterson Should Not Be on Death Row by Matt Dalton with Bonnie Hearn Hill. (Atria, 2005) ISBN 0743286952 ISBN 978-0743286954
  • Stone Cold Guilty The People v. Scott Lee Peterson by Loretta Dillon, (self-published?) ISBN 1411634535
  • We, the Jury: Deciding the Scott Peterson Case, compilation (2007) ISBN 1597775363
  • I'm Sorry I Lied To You: The Confession of Scott Peterson by Donna Thomas. 3rd Edition (Duj Pepperman Enterprises) ISBN: 1-59453-969-3

References

  1. ^ Ancestry of Conner Peterson
  2. ^ Peterson Trial - Scott Peterson Trial Info and News
  3. ^ Scott Peterson entry at NNDB
  4. ^ BBC News - Labels Peterson as the "U.S. beach bodies killer"
  5. ^ CourtTV.com - Evidence from the Scott Peterson Trial, with updates
  6. ^ Courttv.Com - Top News
  7. ^ Before Frey, two other affairs for Peterson, detective says - Courttv.com - Trials
  8. ^ Rocha, Sharon (2006). For Laci. New York City: Crown Publishers. ISBN 030733282. 
  9. ^ COURTTV.COM - TRIALS - Detective: Peterson's mistress agreed to tape phone calls
  10. ^ COURTTV.COM - TRIALS - Detective: Peterson told lover he was a widower weeks before wife disappeared
  11. ^ "Laci Peterson Case: Scott Peterson's Ex-Mistress Testifies." CNN http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/law/12/11/court.archive.peterson5/index.html (accessed: June 11, 2008)
  12. ^ Laci Peterson's remains identified; husband arrested, CNN, April 18, 2003, retrieved September 23, 2007
  13. ^ In closing, prosecutor says parenthood pushed Peterson to kill - Courttv.com - Trials
  14. ^ A paucity of physical evidence, findlaw.com (retrieved November 11, 2007)
  15. ^ Items Found in Peterson's Car
  16. ^ Ryan, Harriet. "Expert Connects Scott Peterson's Fishing Route to Unborn Son's Remains." (October 5, 2004) http://www.courttv.com/trials/peterson/100404_ctv.html (accessed: June 11, 2008)
  17. ^ AP (April 20, 2003). "Peterson pleads innocent in deaths of wife, unborn son". USA Today. http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2003-04-20-peterson-case_x.htm. Retrieved 2009-10-03. 
  18. ^ a b Finz, Stacy (May 3, 2003). "L.A. attorney says client wants to vindicate himself by finding killer". San Francisco Chronicle. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2003/05/03/MN122043.DTL. Retrieved 2009-05-01. 
  19. ^ AP (January 20, 2004). "Judge Moves Peterson Trial to San Mateo County". Fox News. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,108939,00.html. Retrieved 2009-05-01. 
  20. ^ COURT TV ONLINE - The Scott Peterson Murder Trial
  21. ^ CNN.com - Transcripts
  22. ^ a b COURTTV.COM - TRIALS - Two-timer, yes, but no double murderer: Peterson's defense lays out its case
  23. ^ Peterson's unborn son died at time of his wife's disappearance, expert says - Courttv.com - Trials
  24. ^ FOXNews.com - Experts: No Proof of Satanic Cults - U.S. & World
  25. ^ Dodd, Johnny; Serena Kappes (June 23, 2004). "Juror Removed from Scott Peterson Trial". People. http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,656971,00.html. Retrieved 2009-05-01. 
  26. ^ Source: Jury foreman dismissed in Peterson case - CNN.com -
  27. ^ Peterson penalty phase postponed until after Thanksgiving - Courttv.com - Trials
  28. ^ Peterson jurors speak about guilty verdict, death sentence - Courttv.com - Trials
  29. ^ COURTTV.COM - TRIALS - Prosecutors: Peterson signed up for porn channels after wife vanished
  30. ^ Taped phone calls catch Scott Peterson in numerous lies to family, friends - Courttv.com - Trials
  31. ^ Cosby, Rita; AP (April 19, 2003). "Body Identified as Laci Peterson; Scott Peterson Arrested in San Diego". Fox News. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,84562,00.html. Retrieved 2009-05-01. 
  32. ^ de Vries, Lloyd (October 4, 2004). "Laci Dumped At Scott Fishing Spot?: But Prosecution Expert Can't Be Certain About The Location". CBS News. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/10/05/national/main647611.shtml. Retrieved 2009-05-01. 
  33. ^ "'Love triangle' murder trial captivates US". Sydney Morning Herald. August 23, 2004. http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/08/23/1093113128828.html?from=storylhs. Retrieved 2009-05-01. 
  34. ^ 'Weak' Peterson defense rests | Oakland Tribune | Find Articles at BNET.com
  35. ^ Fetus age debated in Peterson trial | Oakland Tribune | Find Articles at BNET.com
  36. ^ "June 17: Was Money The Motive For Murder?". KRXI-TV. June 24, 2004. http://www.foxreno.com/news/3430205/detail.html. Retrieved 2009-05-01. 
  37. ^ Judge sentences Scott Peterson to death for killing his wife and unborn son - Courttv.com - Trials
  38. ^ http://www.cnn.com/2005/LAW/03/17/peterson.prison/index.html
  39. ^ http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7217582/
  40. ^ [1], National Geographic San Quentin part 2 of 6
  41. ^ IMDBThe Perfect Husband: The Laci Peterson Story
  42. ^ http://www.modbee.com/reports/peterson/trial/story/9701544p-10584066c.html
  43. ^ The sport of speculating about 'Strawberry Shortcake', sfgate.com (retrieved November 11, 2007)
  44. ^ Juror Becomes Scott Peterson Pen Pal, cbsnews.com (retrieved November 11, 2007)

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