Jurors: Peterson demeanor hurt own case
December 13, 2004
REDWOOD CITY, Calif. – There was no murder weapon and no witness. But in the end, the jurors who decided Scott Peterson’s fate said his behavior and the circumstantial evidence were enough to convict and send him to death row.
“I still would have liked to see, I don’t know if remorse is the right word,” said juror Steve Cardosi, a paramedic from Half Moon Bay. “He lost his wife and his child and he’s romancing a girlfriend. That doesn’t make sense to me – at all.”
Peterson’s unemotional demeanor during his trial, when the guilty verdicts against him were read last month and during Monday’s sentencing verdict convinced jurors they made the right decision.
The 32-year-old former fertilizer salesman did not testify at his trial, and some jurors were expecting him to take the stand while others said he did not need to.
“We heard from him,” said Richelle Nice, an unemployed mother of four. “For me, a big part of it was at the end – the verdict – no emotion. No anything. That spoke a thousand words – loud and clear. Today – the giggle at the table. Loud and clear.”
Cardosi, Nice and Greg Beratlis of Belmont were the only members of the 12-person panel to discuss the case at a courthouse news conference Monday. The others declined to be interviewed.
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“I would’ve liked to have heard something out of his mouth … A plea for his life,” Beratlis said. “I never got that.”
Regarding Peterson’s motive, Cardosi said, “I have no idea why somebody would kill somebody. I can’t fathom it.” He added that perhaps “Peterson was too scared for a divorce.”
Beratlis said Peterson killed his family because “I don’t think divorce was an option.” He said Peterson’s motive was not to be with his mistress, Amber Frey. Instead, he said, “I think it was freedom.”
The jurors were not told each other’s real names until after giving the sentence recommendation, using fake names to address each other during the more than six months after they were impaneled.
Three jurors were replaced during the course of the trial, one in June and two after deliberations had started. One of those was the jury’s previous foreman.
“We went through quite a bit of time that was very ineffective,” Cardosi said. “The group unanimously agreed to change the foreperson to become a little more effective in deliberating.”
Former juror Frances Gorman, dismissed from the jury less than a week into deliberations for doing her own research, said she agreed with the panel’s decision.
“I would say ‘Yes, he deserves to die,’ ” Gorman said Monday in a telephone interview. “I had already told myself he had planned this and orchestrated it and did a whole lot of things to cover up.”
The three who spoke Monday at the courthouse said there wasn’t any one thing among the volumes of evidence presented by the prosecution that led to their guilty verdicts Nov. 12.
They convicted Peterson of first-degree murder in the killing of his wife, Laci, and second-degree murder in the death of her fetus.
But one thing did stand out: Peterson’s alibi. He said he went fishing Dec. 24, 2002, by himself in San Francisco Bay with a newly purchased boat, and four months later his wife’s body and fetus were found there.
“Those bodies were found in the same place,” Beratlis said. “That played in my mind, over and over.”
Cardosi, the foreman, said, “The bodies washed up where he was.”
While jurors decried Peterson’s lack of emotion, at times some broke down in tears or got chocked up as they explained their jury service.
“The hardest part was Littleman. That’s what I called Connor,” Nice said of the unborn child who the Petersons planned to name Connor. “That was his daddy who did that. He should have been protecting them.”
Peterson’s attorneys conceded he was a cheating and lying husband but tried to convince jurors that didn’t equate to being a murderer. With his mistress on the stand, however, prosecutors played audio tapes showing how Peterson appeared uncaring about the fate of his wife. He seemed more interested in romancing his mistress, Amber Frey, than in helping with the search.
“When you put it all together, it spoke for itself,” Nice said.