Jury Deliberating Scott Peterson's Fate

The jury has begun deliberating whether Scott Peterson will be sentenced to life in prison without parole or death. When a verdict has been reached, I'll be doing an on-line chat for the Wshington Post. Details to follow. Despite the fact that these jurors appear to hate Scott Peterson, I think there may be a life verdict. All it takes is one.

Mark Geragos gave the second of two defense closings after lunch, Here's the latest from the Court TV blog:

Right off the bat, Geragos makes a startling admission to jurors: "I did not prepare a penalty phase," he says. "I just did not expect your verdict." He tells them that was the reason for the two-week delay between guilt and penalty phases: He had to go interview witnesses. He acknowledges that admitting this makes for a good appellate argument for malpractice.—

Geragos tells the jury a life sentence would mean Scott Peterson spends all of his "natural days" in a cell the size of four of their chairs with another inmate. "Someday, some guard is going to knock on his cell," Geragos says, bringing his fist down three times on the rail of the jury box. "And say, 'Peterson, your mom's dead.' And someday, six months, a year after that, some guard is going to knock on the cell again and say, 'Peterson, your dad's dead.'" Peterson's half-sister, Susan Caudillo, cries in the first row of the courtroom. Peterson stares toward his lawyer impassively. Laci Petersons brother, Brent Rocha, watches him intently.

Geragos closes his summation with a plea for "mercy and compassion." He says that killing Peterson will not bring any solace to the Rocha family and will only continue the cycle of violence. "How does that idea of sticking a needle in his arm, how is that going to help?" he asks. "None of this is going to bring back Laci, bring back Conner." He makes a strong pitch for holdouts against death, all but asking for a hung jury: "You are not forced to come to a unanimous decision," he tells them. Jurors seem to be listening attentively, especially when he talks about the circumstances of Peterson's incarceration in a small cell. "It's not going to be a picnic for him," says Geragos.

When the jurors arrived this morning they were hooting it up.

The jurors arrive at court in two sheriff's vans. Whither the Serendipity charter bus? Several jurors are roaring with laughter when they emerge. Juror No. 11 hugs the bailiff, who greets her. Strawberry Shortcake quips, "We're the nicest-looking inmates you've ever seen." The Teamster and Juror No. 11 guffaw. The panelists are dressed casually in jeans and khakis; Alternate No. 5 is wearing a tie. The foreman and Juror No. 12 — who were polar opposites in their reactions to the testimony of Jackie Peterson — are joking around with each other, and enter with their arms around each others waists. The overall mood is relaxed and cohesive. They could be walking into the open bar of a company Christmas party instead of the finale of a capital trial.

That just makes me sick.

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