#27) November 2004
Laci Peterson Case Information:
When: November 2004
November 1 Rick Distaso gives what the Modesto Bee calls an “articulate and spirited” closing statement for the prosecution, reminding the jury of the defendant’s “twisted sense of reality” and outright lies. “I think that’s the biggest part of this case: the betrayal aspect of Scott Peterson,” Distaso states. To drive home his point, he shows the by-now famous photograph of Laci Peterson sitting alone at a party, taken the same night that the defendant was wooing Amber Frey at a different gathering. “She had no idea what was coming,” Distaso theorizes. “She probably trusted him more than anybody else.” The prosecutor then shows the jury a split-screen image, juxtaposing a shot of the very live, smiling and pregnant victim with one showing her skeletal remains. “Here is where she would end up,” he says. As a wave of murmurs ripples through the courtroom, Steve Cardosi turns in his chair to look at the Rocha family, who had been conspicuously absent for the most graphic photographs shown throughout the trial. Sharon Rocha looks down. Brent Rocha looks briefly, then turns away. Continuing his multimedia presentation with clips from Scott Peterson’s television interviews and recorded telephone calls, Distaso characterizes the case as “common sense,” saying, “It’s a simple case where a man murdered his wife.” He reemphasizes one of the strongest pieces of evidence against the defendant: Scott Peterson admitted being in the place where the remains were later found. “The only person that we know without any doubt who was there in the exact location where Laci and Conner Peterson’s bodies washed ashore at the exact time when they went missing is sitting right there,” Distaso argues. “That alone is proof beyond a reasonable doubt. You can take that fact to the bank, and you can convict this man of murder.” The prosecutor also reminds jurors that Scott Peterson had purchased a two-day fishing license days before his trip to San Francisco Bay, contradicting his claim that the fateful trip was a spur-of-the-moment decision made on December 24, 2002, because the weather was too cold for golfing. Seeming to follow the advice of legal pundits, Distaso downplays the significance of Amber Frey as a motive. “I’m not telling you that he killed his wife to go marry Amber Frey,” he tells the jury, then elaborates: “Amber Frey represented his freedom. Freedom is what he wanted.” The prosecutor also reminds the jury of Scott Peterson’s statement that he had “lost his wife,” suggesting that perhaps the defendant believed his own story. “In his mind, maybe that was the truth,” Distaso speculates. “She was dead to him a long time before he killed her.” Distaso replays the defendant’s interview with Diane Sawyer, in which he insists Laci Peterson knew of his affair with Amber Frey but was dealing with it. “I don’t think there is a single person in this court who believes that,” Distaso states, then points at the defendant and adds, “Except maybe him.” Distaso, while acknowledging that there is no “playbook for grief,” shows a photograph of Scott Peterson smiling at a vigil for Laci Peterson and contends, “Nobody grieves like that.” Recounting the list of arguments for Scott Peterson’s guilt, Distaso asks jurors, “How many of these coincidences does the defendant want you to swallow and still call yourselves reasonable people?” Following his presentation, Distaso receives accolades from many of the observers who had previously bashed his methodical delivery and sometimes “rambling” presentation of the case. “This is one of the better closing arguments I’ve seen,” Jim Hammer tells the media. Robert Talbot, another harsh critic, agrees, saying that Distaso showed a lot of emotion that had been missing from the prosecution’s case. “It’s here now,” Talbot states. A Modesto Bee article focuses on what was left out of the trial, including broken promises by Mark Geragos that he would present witnesses who saw Laci Peterson alive, others who saw Scott Peterson with his boat but who did not see a body; and experts proving that Conner Peterson was born alive.
November 2 Mark Geragos begins his closing argument for Scott Peterson’s defense, walking up to his seated client and asking the jurors, “Do you all hate him?” Geragos contends that the prosecution has shown his client to be guilty only of being a lousy husband. “All they want you to do is be influenced by sentiment,” he says in defense of Scott Peterson. “If you hate him, you can engage in conjecture.” Geragos reminds the jurors that they have a legal obligation not to do so. “If you do what you’re sworn to do, and don’t engage in speculation, passion or prejudice…you have only one conclusion: that is that Scott Peterson is not guilty.” He characterizes the previous day’s presentation as short on facts and long on proving the defendant’s lack of morals. The defense attorney offers a paraphrase of Rick Distaso’s closing argument: “This guy’s the biggest jerk that ever walked the face of the Earth, the biggest liar on the face of the Earth, and you should hate him, hate him, hate him. Don’t bother with five months of evidence. Don’t bother with the fact that the evidence shows clearly he didn’t do this. Just hate him. Because, if you hate him, you’ll convict him.” Geragos points out a list of items pointing to his client’s innocence, including the fact that he invited Amy Rocha over to his home for pizza the night investigators believed he killed Laci Peterson, a lack of forensic evidence at the presumed murder scene, his paying of Laci Peterson’s health insurance the day before she was reported missing, Internet activity that indicated Laci Peterson may have been using the computer the day she disappeared and testimony from a neighbor who stated nothing unusual happened at Scott and Laci Peterson’s home on December 23, 2002. Geragos also argues that any suggestion that Scott Peterson killed his wife for financial gain makes no sense, as she stood to inherit about $1 million. Geragos also insists that, far from being the disinterested observer he was portrayed to be, “The uncontroverted testimony is that this guy searched more than any human for his family.” Geragos suggests that Scott Peterson lied to Amber Frey because revealing his true self would have likely put in motion a series of events that would have led to an end to searches for his wife. “This is a guy who literally got caught with his pants down,” Geragos quips. “He did what he thought he had to do because he fully expected Laci to come home.” At the defense table, Scott Peterson nods in agreement. According to Geragos, his client kept up the relationship because he felt Amber Frey could empathize with his plight, having herself been victimized by the media. “Nobody’s going to nominate Scott Peterson as husband of the year,” Geragos concedes. “But by all accounts he treated Laci with a great deal of respect.” That remark causes some members of the audience to look at each other in apparent stunned disbelief. Geragos explains that the defendant feels remorse over his adultery. “He cheated on Laci,” Geragos says. “He feels like a 14-karat asshole for doing it.” The Modesto Bee records that some jurors appear “disinterested” in the remarks.
November 3 Rick Distaso gives a brief rebuttal statement in which he graphically describes what Laci Peterson’s last moments alive may have been like. The attorney contends that the victim may have scratched the defendant’s knuckles as she fought to free herself from strangulation—injuries that he admitted in later television interviews were suffered the day his wife was reported missing. The Modesto Bee later notes that jurors seem “riveted” by the presentation. Some jurors look up from their note-taking to view the prosecutor acting out the scene. Distaso praises his legal opponent, stating, “He’s a very skilled, very good lawyer,” but in the same breath questions his effectiveness. “When he was up here saying the defense brought forth the truth to you, I just loved it. The entire defense case was based on hearsay, which you can’t consider for the truth. To say, ‘We brought the truth forth,’ that’s just not true.” The prosecutor also mocks the defense suggestion that transients framed Scott Peterson. “It’s just not reasonable that anybody put those bodies in the bay to frame him,” Distaso argues. “You’ve got to feel for the homeless folks in this case,” Distaso remarks. “They’re taking a bad rap.” The prosecutor draws a few laughs when he points out that the defendant’s launch site was not revealed in the newspapers until December 28, 2002—after authorities had started searches of the San Francisco Bay. “Apparently, homeless people are avid readers of the Modesto Bee,” he quips. He also shrugs off the defense argument that the case is based only on emotion. “I don’t care how you feel about Scott Peterson,” he says. “That’s not important. What’s important is the things he did and why he did them.” Geragos speaks to jurors for about 20 minutes in what the Modesto Bee characterizes as “subdued tones” that were a far cry from his opening in which he trumpeted that he would show his client as “stone-cold innocent” of the crime. “A hallmark of our system of justice, the American jurisprudence system, is that if the prosecution does not prove their case, you must acquit Scott Peterson,” he tells jurors. “If they do not prove their case, you do not fill in the blanks for them. You do not engage in speculation.” Geragos offers a compliment to Al Delucchi and a backhanded one to prosecutors. “I think this was an enormously good experience in the sense that you had a tremendous judge and you had a competent prosecutor,” he remarks. “Competent, in the sense that he tried to pull the case together. I don’t think any prosecutor could because the evidence just isn’t there.” After the defense statement, Delucchi tells jurors they will begin deliberations after lunch. “You can discuss it till you’re blue in the face, but not when you’re not in the jury room, not with the alternates and not with any staff at that hotel,” he instructs. Outside the courtroom, Susan Caudillo expresses optimism to a gathering of reporters. “We’re very confident we’ll be seeing Scott very soon,” she says. Ron Grantski, citing the gag order, tells the crowd, “I have a great response, but I can’t say it right now.”
November 4 Al Delucchi hears a media request brought by Rochelle Wilcox to release transcripts from closed evidentiary hearings. Wilcox maintains that such hearings are normally closed only as a last resort, but Delucchi counters that the case against Scott Peterson is out of the ordinary. “This case is different from any other case,” the judge explains. “This is a case that goes to the head of the class, as far as I’m concerned.” He tells Wilcox that the media’s rights are not paramount. “I’m trying to preserve the integrity of this trial to the best of my ability,” he says. “The primary consideration is the defendant’s right to a fair trial.” Among the tidbits not released were the fact that Scott Peterson had a bottle of Viagra on him when he was arrested. “I just don’t think it merited dragging their sex life into this trial,” Delucchi says, explaining his decision. The judge also notes that he decided to allow only an edited segment of a television interview during which the defendant was asked why he did not take a polygraph examination—a test not admissible in court. Wilcox also argues to allow a camera in the courtroom when the verdict is read. “The public has not seen what has happened in this trial in a way that only can be seen over television,” she contends. Delucchi again denies her request. “I will not be part of any situation where, in any way, shape or form, a meltdown of these families takes place in this courtroom which will reflect poorly on these families,” the judge states. “Is it in the public interest to see either one of these families have a meltdown in the courtroom? How is that in the public interest?” Wilcox argues that the camera will focus only on the defendant and the attorneys, but prosecutors agree with Mark Geragos that the camera will serve no useful purpose. Delucchi, when asked by reporters, does not deny that Gregory Jackson has been elected jury foreman. The jury deliberates a second day, asking to see several items of evidence, including the video and transcript of Scott Peterson’s first official police interview, a photograph of the fishing license he bought days before Laci Peterson’s disappearance, catalog photographs of Laci Peterson’s pants, photographs of Scott and Laci Peterson’s home and photographs of the blouse that Laci Peterson wore the night of December 23, 2002. Delucchi fields questions from reporters, saying he has worked diligently to keep order in his courtroom during what he termed a “powder keg” case. He expresses hope that there will be no incidents in the courtroom when a verdict is reached.
November 5 Sheriff’s deputies seize a digital camera’s memory card from a woman attempting to photograph jurors entering the courthouse, but she is not arrested. In their third day of deliberations, the jury asks to see Scott Peterson’s boat, and the court makes arrangements to have the group view it on November 8, 2004. The group also asks to see maps of cell towers, Scott Peterson’s fishing license, transcripts and an audio recording of a telephone call between the defendant and Sharon Rocha (February 13, 2003) and transcripts of various calls made on January 11, 2003, between him and Jackie Peterson, Lee Peterson, Sharon Rocha and others. Just before noon, a delivery man leaving the courthouse is followed by reporters, who question him about the jurors’ meal selections. The jurors deliberate about seven hours before breaking for the weekend. During the afternoon, Pat Harris meets along with prosecutors in the judge’s chambers, but does not reveal why. “Don’t even think about it,” he tells a reporter poised to ask a question.
November 6 Taking a break from deliberations, the jury remains sequestered at their hotel.
November 7 The jury takes a second day off from deliberations.
November 8 After a weekend break, the jury enters a fourth day of deliberations. They view Scott Peterson’s boat in a secure level of a parking garage near the courthouse. Two jurors stand in the boat, and at least one of them rocks the boat. One juror reaches over as if to see if one could toss a body overboard—an action that, according to John Guinasso, causes Scott Peterson to drop his chin “almost to his chest.” The defense calls for a mistrial, but Al Delucchi denies the motion. Mark Geragos then requests that jurors be allowed to see a videotaped demonstration in which a dummy body is pushed over the side of a similar boat, causing it to flip over. “I don’t want a mistrial,” the attorney tells Delucchi. “I want to show the demonstration.” Delucchi denies this request, as well, and notes that jurors should consider that the boat was not in the water at the time it was being rocked. Birgit Fladager argues for the prosecution, contending that the jurors’ actions did not constitute an experiment. The judge tells Geragos that the jurors’ actions were unexpected. “Some of the jurors wanted to be able to sit in the boat,” the judge explains. “I didn’t know they were going to jump up and down on the boat.” Later, the jurors ask to see the anchor Scott Peterson made, tidal charts, audio recordings and transcripts of telephone calls between him and Amber Frey, and the plastic recovered by investigators near Laci Peterson’s remains. Gregory Jackson sends a note to Delucchi, asking to be excused from the jury. The judge calls jurors into the courtroom and admonishes them, saying, “the attitude and the conduct of jurors at all times is very important.” He cautions that it will be detrimental to the process for any of them to “express an emphatic opinion on a case or to announce a determination to stand for a certain verdict.” According to a later account in the Modesto Bee, the jurors appear “somber” as the judge speaks. After the jury leaves, Delucchi states that he may have to bring them back in and read to them an instruction from the Charles Moore case, in which a deadlocked jury was further instructed by the court. “We’ll see what develops,” the judge remarks. The November 15, 2004, edition of the Globe hits newsstands, promising “new crime scene photos,” but only one of the 15 photographs shown is of evidence recovered from the area where Laci Peterson’s remains were discovered.
November 9 During the morning of the fifth day of deliberations, Al Delucchi meets with attorneys from both sides. At 2:11 p.m., the jury is called into the courtroom, where Delucchi delivers the news that juror Fran Gorman, after deliberating with her fellow jurors for more than 27 hours, is being dismissed. She is replaced by Richelle Nice. According to a Modesto Bee account, many members of the group wear “somber expressions,” one shakes her head from side to side before resting it “wearily on one hand,” and Gregory Jackson appears “distraught, his face flushed and hair disheveled.” Jackson is replaced as jury foreman by Steve Cardosi. The newspaper later reports that Birgit Fladager appears “cheerful,” Rick Distaso seems “stern,” and defense attorneys are smiling. The judge does not cite a specific reason for Gorman’s dismissal, but provides a strong clue, quoting a section of California Jury Instructions entitled, “Juror Forbidden to Make Any Independent Investigation.” The judge warns the jury, saying, “You must decide all questions of fact in this case from the evidence received in this trial and not from any other source.” Delucchi instructs the group to return to the beginning with its new member. “We’re going to send you back, and you’ll start all over again.” He tells them to “keep in touch.” Lee Peterson, Jackie Peterson and Janey Peterson, absent from the courtroom during jury deliberations, come back for the announcement. After the proceedings, Distaso passes reporters with his head down, telling them, “I’m not saying anything.” Even before Gorman’s arrival home, a crowd of reporters has gathered there. Early in the afternoon, Gorman’s son-in-law briefly enters the home and is swarmed by reporters after exiting. Holding a bowling ball and pair of bowling shoes, he tells the crowd that he has no information to disclose concerning Gorman. “I’m just going bowling,” he says. “I haven’t seen her at all. I haven’t talked to her. I haven’t done anything.” At about 4:15 p.m., Gorman arrives at her two-story gray stucco home. Riding in the passenger seat of a white Porsche 911, she passes a gathering of about 20 reporters and enters her garage. She is followed by another vehicle. A young woman emerges from that vehicle and pushes a button to close the garage door. A few moments later, the same woman tells the reporters that Gorman will not be speaking to them. “We’re not commenting at all, thank you,” she says. The blinds in the home are then shut. Jackson refuses to eat dinner with the other jurors.
November 10 The jury begins a sixth day of deliberations. Gregory Jackson refuses to eat breakfast with the other jurors. Upon arriving in the jury room, he tells the others that he is implicating himself and Steve Cardosi for speaking about the case outside the jury room. Jackson and Cardosi write notes to Al Delucchi, who again interviews all the jurors. Just before 10:30 a.m., the jury is brought into the courtroom. According to later accounts in the Modesto Bee, John Guinasso and Fairy Sorrell appear “buoyant” when entering the room, Steve Cardosi shows little emotion—only a slight smile—as he takes his seat, and other jurors appear weary but overall in a lighter mood than during the previous day’s dismissal of Fran Gorman. Al Delucchi announces that, after deliberating with his fellow jurors for about four hours since the dismissal of Fran Gorman, Gregory Jackson has also been dismissed, over the objections of the defense. He is replaced on the jury by Dennis Lear. Mike Belmessieri shakes hands with Lear, and both men smile. “I remind you again,” Delucchi states, “You must decide all questions again from this trial and not from any other source.” The judge tells the new group, “We’ll put you back in the jury room, and you’ll begin your deliberations.” The dismissed juror does not appear at his home for several hours, and refuses to comment to the media. Later accounts by the Modesto Bee quote Dean Johnson as saying the assignment of the new foreman “has to be a good day for the defense.” Bill Cody meets in chambers with Delucchi and attorneys from both sides. Meanwhile, an aluminum boat parked in a nearby parking lot owned by Mark Geragos is transformed into a public memorial for Laci Peterson. The boat, reportedly used in defense experiments, is covered with flowers and signs by area residents. Many of the arrangements have cards from a local florist addressed to “The Boat.” During the night, the vessel is towed away.
November 11 Jurors suspend deliberations for Veterans Day.
November 12 At 11:19 a.m., Al Delucchi announces that a verdict will be read at 1:00 p.m. “Ladies and gentlemen of the media, the jury has arrived at a verdict,” the judge states. Scott Peterson appears in a dark suit, and is represented by Pat Harris and Nareg Gourjian in the absence of Mark Geragos. No members of the Rocha family or the Peterson family are present in the courtroom for the judge’s announcement. After deliberating seven hours and 14 minutes since getting a new foreman, the jury returns with a verdict, finding Scott Peterson guilty of murder in the first degree in the death of Laci Peterson, and of murder in the second degree in the death of Conner Peterson. Jurors also confirm special circumstances, premeditated murder with multiple victims, meaning that the defendant faces a possible death sentence. Scott Peterson stares straight ahead as the verdicts are read. Sharon Rocha begins crying, and Brent Rocha puts his arm around her. Lori Ellsworth and other friends of Laci Peterson also burst into tears. Jackie Peterson, unaccompanied by Lee Peterson, drops her head. Fairy Sorrell turns to Sharon Rocha and nods slightly as the jurors file out of the courtroom. A smiling Rick Distaso and the prosecution team leaves the courthouse through the front door, but say nothing. “We’re not done yet,” Jim Brazelton says. Sharon Rocha smiles slightly but does not comment to reporters. She speaks on her cellular phone. Ron Grantski signals a thumbs-up to the group. Harvey Kemple remarks, “We’re very happy.” Gwen Kemple chimes in, saying, “Great day, great day.” Jackie, Joe and Janey Peterson leave the courthouse by the front entrance, past the crowd that had gathered for the reading of the verdict. Pat Harris tells reporters he has no comment, again citing the gag order. “I feel bad I wasn’t there,” Geragos later tells a reporter. At the former residence of Scott and Laci Peterson, the group of people who gathered there to hear the verdict being read on radio are joined by others. Three police officers cordon off the front yard. Susan Medina asks the officers to clear out the visitors. Howard Varinsky, who managed to survive the Justin Falconer debacle, remarks on television that he was “thrilled” with the verdict. “I feel very vindicated,” he says. John Thompson files a formal complaint with the California Bar Association against Mark Geragos for openly displaying a fishing boat in a parking lot two blocks from the courthouse, an act that Thompson states was an obvious attempt to communicate with jurors. At the web site of the Modesto Bee, about 137,000 readers access about 505,000 pages, up from a typical Friday of about 25,000 readers and about 150,000 pages.
November 13 At the web site of the Modesto Bee, about 50,000 readers access about 250,000 pages, up from a typical Saturday of about 20,000 readers and about 85,000 pages.
November 14 A Modesto Bee article summarizes the Scott Peterson trial, stating, “When the smoke cleared Friday, the last man standing wasn’t Mark Geragos, lawyer to the stars who got out of Dodge before the verdict came down. And it wasn’t his murderous client.” The article quotes Dean Johnson, who suggests that Rick Distaso’s portrayal of Laci Peterson as a victim of strangulation, followed with a clip of Scott Peterson explaining cuts on his knuckles, was a particularly compelling sequence after which jurors may have concluded, “The murder weapon has been here in the courtroom all this time.”
November 15 Sharon Rocha, Brent Rocha and Ron Grantski go to the former home of Scott and Laci Peterson to collect items left by supporters. Grantski tells reporters that the flowers still in good shape will go to a care home for the elderly, and that teddy bears and toys will go to abused children via the Modesto Police Department and the First Baptist Church. He remarks that the support of the community has helped them get through the ordeal of the past two years. “It touches us a lot,” he says. “The whole community has been fantastic. I don’t know how the Petersons get through it. They don’t have near the support we do, and it’s hell for us.” He notes that he is keeping one toy for himself. “It said, ‘To the best teacher,'” he explains. “Things like that smart.” “They have a legal right to be there,” Adam Stewart says. “It’s all part of the healing.” The latest edition of the National Enquirer hits newsstands, offering “Shocking Evidence Jury Never Heard.”
November 16 Adam Stewart reports that he believes Sharon Rocha will testify during the penalty phase. Mark Church, accusing Stanislaus County of slow payments for the Scott Peterson trial, writes Gene Mullin, arguing that California law needs to be changed as it applies to moved trials. According to his letter, San Mateo County has billed Stanislaus County for about $320,000 in court costs, but has received payments totaling about $67,000. “The county is currently in the process of seeking a court order to compel Stanislaus to fully reimburse the County of San Mateo,” Church writes. He proposes requiring payment within 30 days and to allow the trial judge to order the state controller to pay the receiving county from the originating county’s state allocation for trial court funding.
November 17 Mark Geragos requests a new jury and a new venue for the penalty phase.
November 18 Jack Hirsch confirms to media representatives that Mark Geragos has offered for sale the office building he purchased in Redwood City during Scott Peterson’s trial. Sellers on eBay offer copies of Saturday editions of local newspapers and other Laci Peterson-related items. Mark Church speaks to a Modesto Bee reporter regarding his complaints against Stanislaus County and his proposals to amend California law. “This legislation would provide us the remedy without a need to resort to a lawsuit,” Church argues. He admits some payments have been made, but contends that they are not enough. “There’s been some communication back and forth, but the payments have not been forthcoming,” he explains.
November 20 The second-annual Laci Peterson Memorial Day centers around a group motorcycle ride—1 ,700 bikers traveling from Modesto to Burwood Cemetery and Main Street Park in downtown Escalon, then back to Modesto. Beginning at about 8:00 a.m., bikers gather at Mitchell’s Modesto Harley-Davidson. The event, spearheaded by Shawn Rocha, involves the dedicating of a memorial park bench in Escalon, a celebration that attracts some 2,000 people. Mourners leave a small Christmas tree and a wrought-metal angel near the bench. The event is attended by Sharon Rocha, who rides on the back of Shawn Rocha’s motorcycle, and Dennis Rocha. After the motorcycles arrive in Escalon around 11:30 a.m., Shawn Rocha addresses the crowd. “Thank you from our hearts,” he tells them. “The goal was to have turnout and support to boost the family spirits. That happened, and I couldn’t be happier.” The Modesto Bee reports that Mike Tozzi, responding to complaints from Mark Church, admits that Stanislaus County has been slow to reimburse San Mateo County, citing financial difficulties and questions about the bills. “We have not remitted the entire amount because we have some questions,” he explains. “The San Mateo court is responding to those questions, and, of course, we don’t have the full bill.” He also acknowledges that the county is currently unable to foot the bill. “I’m very sure that we are not going to be able to handle financially the total court costs,” he states.
November 21 In a Modesto Bee article, Adam Stewart states that the Rocha family is hoping that the civil suit against Scott Peterson will “extinguish his interest in the home” he owns jointly with Sharon Rocha. Stewart is also critical of the loan he obtained through his parents, using that residence as collateral. “It’s a sham transaction,” Stewart complains. “There’s a strong indication that he could not have obtained that loan other than through his parents.” In the same article, Randall Bell predicts the home will decline in value because of the conviction of Scott Peterson. “You’re going to see the classic elements of crime-scene stigma,” Bell says.
November 22 Speaking in front of Al Delucchi, Mark Geragos contends that Gregory Jackson claimed there had been threats to his safety, and jurors discussing the “popular verdict, the expected verdict.” Arguing both for a new jury and a new venue, the defense attorney notes that there was a cheering crowd outside the courthouse when the guilty verdict was read. “This court knows the atmosphere surrounding the courthouse as the cheering section…charitably described as a mob scene, obviously cheering the fact that the jury reached the verdict that they did,” he states. “I can only liken it to the ’50s in the South, black men accused of raping white women. There was a mob outside the courthouse. I fully expected people to start building the gallows somewhere in the parking lot across the street. The jury was led away in a carnival-like atmosphere and that’s not supposed to affect them?” He suggests that the current jury is tainted, and that “any lingering doubt they may have had essentially is extinguished by the cheering masses.” Despite the impassioned plea, Delucchi seems unmoved. “Where could I send this case in the state of California that hasn’t been inundated with the media coverage?” he asks rhetorically. “My wife knows somebody who just came back from Rome, Italy, and they had the verdict on the radio in Rome, Italy. I’ve never seen anything like it before. I’m presented with a situation where there is no solution.” Arguing for the prosecution, Dave Harris states that there is “absolutely no showing” that the jury has been prejudiced. “That people outside were happy with the verdict doesn’t change the fact that it was a fair jury,” Harris argues. Delucchi points out to Geragos that he did not exhaust his challenges during jury selection. “I can only come to the conclusion that you were satisfied,” the judge states. Ultimately, Delucchi denies both motions, and also rules to delay the penalty phase of Scott Peterson’s trial until November 30, 2004. Jackie Peterson, Janey Peterson and Susan Caudillo are among those in attendance at the hearing.
November 23 Mark Geragos files appeals with the First District Court of Appeal on both motions that were denied by Al Delucchi the previous day, but the court summarily denies Geragos’ requests.
November 24 Mark Geragos files appeals with the California Supreme Court, asking them to reconsider his motion to have a new jury in a new venue for the penalty phase of Scott Peterson’s trial.
November 25 The Modesto Bee runs an article about the Laci Peterson case and that brought “unwanted attention to Modesto and the surrounding Northern San Joaquin Valley and foothills.”
November 28 The Modesto Bee runs an article about the jurors in the Scott Peterson case having to consider the death penalty. The story states, “Determining punishment before deliberations in the penalty phase is a common experience for many death penalty jurors, according to an ongoing study by the Capital Jury Project at Northeastern University.”
November 29 The California Supreme Court denies review of the appeals filed by Mark Geragos, asking to have reconsidered his motions to have a new jury and a new venue for the penalty phase of Scott Peterson’s trial. The move clears the way for the penalty phase to begin. San Mateo County Superior Court officials announce that the penalty phase verdict will be announced through a live audio feed, just as the guilt phase verdict was. Court officials also state that trial participants will be released immediately from the gag order and allowed to speak at a news conferences scheduled to occur at a nearby former courthouse following the verdict.
November 30 Proceedings are delayed for more than two hours, as an unidentified man, accompanied by his attorney, is taken into the judge’s chambers. The San Mateo County Times later reports the man is a bartender at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. Afterward, Al Delucchi apologizes for the delay but offers no further explanation. The penalty phase opens, with Dave Harris giving the opening statement for the prosecution. The prosecution then calls Brent Rocha, Amy Rocha, Dennis Rocha, Ron Grantski and Sharon Rocha. None of the witnesses are cross-examined. “I wish I could be the one gone,” Grantski tells the court. In the afternoon, Sharon Rocha takes the stand. She wears a black turtleneck, a cream-colored jacket and a heart-shaped medallion with a photograph of Laci Peterson. In emotional testimony, she explains how, even at her daughter’s funeral, the defendant’s cruelty haunted her. “I knew she was in the casket,” she testifies. “She was in the casket, and I knew the baby was there, and I knew she didn’t have arms to hold him. She should have had her arms…It just haunts me all the time.” Seeming to direct her comments at the defendant, she argues, “Divorce was always an option, not murder.” Some jurors are moved to tears, and John Guinasso leans back, exhales and wipes his eye. Scott Peterson sits at the defense table with little reaction, other than sometimes furrowing his brow. “You knew where she was,” Sharon Rocha says to him. “Instead, you just let us go through this every day.” She tells of the moment her daughter’s body was found. “When I was told she didn’t have a head…I just dropped the phone and fell on the floor,” she tells the court. “It never occurred to me the condition she might be in.” She tells how dumping her daughter’s body in the water was an intentional cruelty. “He knew she got motion sickness,” she explains. Directing her words to the defendant, she lashes out, “You knew she would be sick for all eternity, and you did that to her anyway.”