Peterson Judge Sentences Him to Death
Scott Peterson Judge Formally Sentences Him to Death in Slaying of Wife and Fetus
By BRIAN SKOLOFF
The Associated Press
Mar. 16, 2005 - A judge sent Scott Peterson to death row Wednesday for the slaying of his pregnant wife, Laci, after a turbulent court session in which his father-in-law warned him in a trembling voice: "You're going to burn in hell for this."
Judge Alfred A. Delucchi accepted the jury's recommendation that Peterson be sentenced to death, calling the killing of Laci Peterson and her fetus "cruel, uncaring, heartless and callous."
Peterson, 32, was invited to make a statement. After several minutes of discussion with his attorneys, he declined.
Wearing a dark suit and shackled at the waist, Peterson stared at Laci's mother without emotion as she told him he deserved to be put to death "as soon as possible."
"You decided to throw Laci and Conner away, dispose of them like they were just a piece of garbage," Sharon Rocha told her former son-in-law. Rocha sobbed as she read from a statement, looking directly at Peterson. "We had to bury Laci without her arms to hold her baby and without her head," Rocha said, her voice breaking.
Laci's father, Dennis Rocha, told Peterson: "You're going to burn in hell for this."
And Laci's brother, Brent Rocha, said he bought a gun during the investigation into Laci's disappearance and contemplated killing Peterson. "I chose not to kill you myself for one reason, so you would have to sweat it out and not take the easy way out," he told Peterson.
The former fertilizer salesman will probably be sent within 48 hours to death row at San Quentin State Prison, overlooking the bay where Laci Peterson's body was discarded, officials said. Peterson became the 644th person awaiting lethal injection in California.
The judge had the option of rejecting the jury's recommendation and imposing a sentence to life without parole, but such a move is all but unheard of. The judge also denied a defense request for a new trial.
He ordered Scott Peterson to pay $10,000 restitution for funeral expenses and an additional $5,000, though the reason for that amount was unexplained.
An eight-months-pregnant Laci Peterson disappeared on Christmas Eve 2002, and prosecutors said Peterson killed her and then dumped her body in San Francisco Bay. The badly decomposed bodies of Laci and her fetus washed ashore four months later.
Prosecutors said Peterson strangled his wife to escape marriage and impending fatherhood and return to the bachelor life. At the time of his wife's disappearance, he was carrying on an affair with Amber Frey, a massage therapist.
Peterson's attorney, Mark Geragos, tried to get the judge to allow Peterson's parents to speak, on the basis that they were related to Conner. But Delucchi said the hearing was an opportunity for only Laci's relatives to speak.
At one point during the family testimony, Brent Rocha recounted a conversation he said he had with Peterson long before Laci vanished. Rocha said the former fertilizer salesman lamented about his life not being what he had hoped it to be.
Scott Peterson's father, Lee, shouted, "What a liar!" He walked out of the courtroom after being admonished by the judge.
Ten of the 12 jurors who recommended the death penalty returned to court Wednesday for the sentencing, four months after the panel found Peterson guilty of murder.
"We wanted to see it all the way through to the end," juror Richelle Nice said outside the courthouse.
As prosecutors and Laci Peterson's family left the courthouse, a crowd of about 100 people cheered and clapped.
"Our family is going to make it," said Ron Grantski, Laci's Peterson stepfather. "We're stronger because of this, and Scott got what he deserved."
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