‘Selfish’ Scott Peterson Deserves Death, CA Says

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Before Scott Peterson, the sleepy town of Modesto, Calif. – population 201,000 – made its name as the birthplace of wine behemoths Ernest and Julio Gallo and legendary filmmaker George Lucas, who immortalized the town in his 1973 ode “American Graffiti.”
     But on Christmas Eve, 2002, Peterson’s wife of five years Laci – eight months pregnant with the couple’s first child – went missing. Peterson said he had left early that morning to go fishing at the Berkeley marina on the San Francisco Bay, 90 miles away, and that Laci was alive and well when he left.
     As days passed and the search for Laci Peterson and the unborn Conner intensified, the media swarmed to Modesto. Despite Peterson’s best efforts to keep his name and face from being associated with his missing wife, one woman took notice and called the Modesto Police Department tip line: Peterson’s mistress, Amber Frey.
     Conner’s body washed ashore on April 13, 2003, in Richmond, a few miles north of the Berkeley marina. Laci’s badly decomposed body was discovered a short distance away the following day.
     Police arrested Peterson for the murders on April 18, in San Diego County. Besides changing his appearance – he had grown a goatee and dyed his hair – police found $15,000 in cash and foreign currency, two driver’s licenses, four cellphones, clothes for all sorts of weather and a considerable amount of survival gear when they searched Peterson’s newly purchased Mercedes during the arrest.
     After moving the trial from Stanislaus County to San Mateo County due to the extraordinary amount pretrial publicity in Modesto, prosecutors conviced jurors to convict Peterson of killing Laci and Conner in November 2004. They returned a death penalty verdict the following month, and San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Alfred Delucci, now deceased, sent Peterson to death row at San Quentin State Prison in March 2005.
     Seven years later, Peterson appealed his death sentence to the California Supreme Court. In a 423-page document filed in July 2012, Peterson maintained his innocence and said that the worldwide pretrial publicity – coupled with erroneous evidentiary rulings by Delucci – made it impossible for him to get a fair trial.
     But in a 519-page answer filed Monday, the state countered that Peterson’s consuming desire to be free of Laci and Conner led him to commit the murders.
     “Fueled by a trifecta of selfishness, arrogance and wanderlust, Scott Peterson decided to take matters into his own hands by planning and carrying out the murders of his wife and unborn child and then dumping their lifeless bodies into San Francisco Bay,” the response, penned by deputy prosecutor Donna Provenzano and signed by Attorney General Kamala Harris, stated.
     “Thankfully, the forces of nature did not oblige Peterson in his attempt to hide the evidence of his crimes,” the document continued. “Although he was successful in ridding himself of those perceived irksome responsibilities, all the while portraying himself as the consummate husband and family man, ironically, Peterson forfeited his freedom in the end.”
     Peterson received a fair trial through the efforts of Delucci, “an experienced and respected jurist,” Provenzano wrote.
     “The trial court shielded the legal process from the searing gaze of the public and the media,” she added. “The trial court’s unrelenting dedication to the fairness of the proceedings also enabled the parties’ attorneys to perform their respective functions in an effective manner geared toward divining the truth and helping the jurors to reach just verdicts.”
     The document also praised the work of the jurors, who endured three months of jury selection, a nearly five-month-long guilt phase, and two rounds of sequestered deliberations in the case.
     “Based on the compelling evidence adduced at trial, the jury fairly concluded that appellant, in an unmitigated act of selfishness and arrogance extinguished two beautiful lives – one of which appellant made certain would never see the light of day,” Provenzano wrote. “The jurors duly considered whether there was anything about appellant’s character, background, or actions that merited leniency.
     “Having properly evaluated the penalty phase evidence, the jury determined appellant deserved the penalty of death. Thus, the criminal justice system did not fail Scott Peterson. On the contrary, the process was fair and the verdicts just,” the filing stated.
     Peterson’s response is due March 27, although the high court routinely grants delay requests in high-profile cases.
     The last execution carried out in California took place in 2006. A number of state and federal challenges of the Golden State’s use of lethal injections has led to a de facto moratorium on the death penalty here, and the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice has opined that death sentences are unlikely to ever be carried out due to excessive delays at the appellate level and the high court’s crushing backlog of death-penalty reviews.

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