Nov 15, 2004
Jurors found Scott Peterson guilty of two homicides in the death of his wife, Laci, and their son, who was to be named Conner. The verdict was first-degree murder for Laci’s death and second-degree murder for Conner’s. Friday’s verdict came after just six hours of jury deliberations.
A pregnant Laci Peterson disappeared just before Christmas in 2002. Police and volunteers from the Modesto, California community spent weeks searching for her.
Laci Peterson’s body later washed up on a shore some 90 miles away, near the place where Scott Peterson told police he had been fishing the day Laci disappeared. Forensic teams were unable to determine the cause of death, because the body had been submerged for too long.
Long Trial, Speedy Verdict
The trial lasted for five months, pitting Scott Peterson’s high-priced defense attorneys against public prosecutors, who revealed that Peterson was having an affair when Laci disappeared. He later dyed his hair and gathered large amounts of cash in an alleged attempt to flee to Mexico to evade police.
Judge Alfred Delucchi ruled in late October that jurors could find Peterson guilty of second-degree murder in the homicides. Second-degree murder does not carry the possibility of the death penalty and many experts speculated that a guilty verdict was now more likely. But jurors found Peterson guilty of first-degree murder in Laci’s death.
The verdict was unexpectedly quick, especially for a case based largely on circumstantial evidence with nearly 200 witnesses. Deliberations began on November 3, but were interrupted as two jurors – one the foreman – were dismissed. Deliberations resumed on Wednesday, jurors took Thursday off for Veterans’ Day, and announced their verdict midday on Friday.
Pregnant Women at Risk
“We commend the prosecutors for bringing a strong case and the jurors for holding Peterson accountable,” Family Violence Prevention Fund President Esta Soler said, “but we need to learn from this case. Pregnant women are at high risk for violence. Homicide is the leading cause of death for pregnant and recently pregnant women, and a significant portion of these women are killed by their intimate partners. Abuse is more common for pregnant women than gestational diabetes or preeclampsia. Yet, most physicians routinely screen patients for diabetes and preeclampsia but do not assess for abuse. That needs to change.”
“We hope this verdict will help Laci Peterson's family begin to heal, and will help ensure that our justice system continues taking these cases seriously," Soler added.
The jury will begin deliberating penalties on November 22. The 32-year-old Scott Peterson could receive life in prison or the death penalty.