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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Scott Peterson Guilty
Aired November 12, 2004 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, HOST: Good evening, from Los Angeles. I'm Anderson Cooper.
Scott Peterson guilty of killing his wife, guilty of killing his son. Now, will he be put to death?
360 starts now.
It's finally over, Scott Peterson guilty. But what will his punishment be? Tonight, we take you inside the courtroom.
How important were the recordings of Scott Peterson's intimate conversations with Amber Frey? Tonight, the tapes, the lies, and how they influenced the jury.
The battle for Falluja continues. Tonight, fighting like you've never seen before. We'll take you to the front lines.
And Yasser Arafat laid to rest while Bush and Blair meet to discuss new prospects for peace. But is there a plan for a post- Arafat era?
ANNOUNCER: This is a special edition of ANDERSON COOPER 360.
COOPER: And good evening from Los Angeles.
For a trial that spanned seasons and a story that stayed in the headlines for two years, the end came quite quickly today. With a hushed court listening and with the 32-year-old defendant showing no emotion at all, Scott Peterson was found guilty, guilty of the first- degree murder of his wife, Laci, guilty of the second-degree murder of his unborn son, Conner.
After two jurors were replaced this week, it took the newest jury just six hours to reach its verdict. In two weeks, that same jury will be back in court to determine if Peterson's fate will be a life spent in prison or death by lethal injection.
Tonight, as always, we're covering all the angles. We begin with the verdict and CNN's David Mattingly.
DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): She was the beaming, soon-to-be mom, the victim of what was reported as a sensational Christmas Eve abduction. He was the cheating husband, seemingly prone to suspicious behavior.
But now Scott Peterson is a convicted killer, found guilty of the first-degree murder of his wife, Laci, and second-degree murder of their unborn child.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We, the jury, in the above-entitled cause find the defendant, Scott Lee Peterson, guilty of the crime of murder of Laci Denise Peterson.
MATTINGLY: Scott Peterson sat almost motionless, showing no reaction as the clerk read the verdict that could bring him the death penalty.
Laci Peterson's friends and family wept openly in court, the end of an ordeal that began in December 2002.
JIM HAMMER, LEGAL ANALYST: There was a gasp in that courtroom. People have been waiting now for five months for the conclusion of the case, and the two most dramatic outcomes were Scott Peterson walking free or facing the death penalty. And that's what he's about to face. So it doesn't get any more serious than that.
MATTINGLY: Outside the courthouse, there were cheers as the verdict was announced. Though the investigation produced no murder weapon or cause of death, jurors unanimously agreed with prosecutors, who described how Scott Peterson murdered his wife in their Modesto home, then tied cement anchors to her body and dumped her into the water of San Francisco Bay.
Recorded phone conversations between Peterson and his one-time girlfriend Amber Frey painted Peterson as an unabashed liar, casting doubt on his story that he was fishing when his wife was abducted.
Peterson's family exited the courthouse without comment. They had no reaction in court to the verdict and did not acknowledge the taunts as they walked to a waiting car.
People in the crowd snapped up copies of a local paper screaming a bold headline, the hottest souvenir on this fateful day in a long and painful trial.
MATTINGLY: Peterson's attorneys will now be fighting for his life as we enter the penalty phase of this trial. The best-case scenario for Scott Peterson right now is life behind bars without parole, Anderson.
COOPER: David Mattingly, thanks very much for that.
We're going to have a lot on this tonight. Prosecutors said that one of the reasons Peterson murdered his wife was so he could be with Amber Frey. Her attorney, Gloria Allred, joins me now from Redwood City. And joining me from New York is CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
Appreciate both of you being with us.
Gloria, let me start off with you. How much of this conviction do you think is the result of those tapes your client, Amber Frey, made?
GLORIA ALLRED, ATTORNEY FOR AMBER FREY: Well, Anderson, I guess we'll probably have to wait for the jury to decide to disclose what they were thinking and what was important to them in their deliberation. But, in my opinion, I think the tapes were very significant because -- for a number of reasons.
One, after they heard those tapes of the telephone conversations between Amber and Scott after -- that were made after Laci disappeared, there is no way that Scott Peterson could ever take the witness stand because he had lied and lied and lied. He did acknowledge on the tapes that he had said to Amber that he had lost his wife, and these would be the first holidays without her, and that occurred before Laci ever went missing, and that he had lied about being married.
And then, of course, we also know that he lied to Diane Sawyer, that he lied to the police, he lied to his own mother, and many, many other lies.
So I think also it showed the relationship between Amber and Scott. Part of that supported a motive for murder. He was talking about having a future with her, wanting to be with her forever, leaving her a birthday gift, a Norah Jones CD, "Come Away with Me."
So again, it's part of the motive that the prosecution outlined as Scott's wanting freedom from being with Laci. He didn't want to be a father. He didn't want the parental responsibility. And, of course, he said on the tapes to Amber, if he were with Amber, then he wouldn't want to have a biological child. Her child would be enough for him.
COOPER: Right. Jeffrey, let me bring (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Split verdict, guilty of first-degree on the murder of Laci Peterson, only second-degree murder for the death of their unborn child. Can you explain that?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, I can't for sure, but this is what it seems to me. We'll have to have the jurors explain it. They obviously believe that Scott (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Scott intended to kill his wife, that that was a premeditated act. They probably thought that the murder of Conner was kind of a side product of that, that he only killed Conner because he really wanted to kill his wife.
That, I think, is, explains the degree of in -- the difference in (UNINTELLIGIBLE), in intent between first and second degree.
COOPER: Gloria, no witnesses. No weapon. What do you think convicted Scott Peterson?
ALLRED: Well, I think it was the totality of the evidence. And there was quite a bit of evidence, as you know, Anderson, five months of evidence. And I think the timeline was important. He himself said that to the police, that he had heard Martha Stewart talk about meringue on Christmas Eve. Well, it turns out that that was at 9:48 in the morning. So that places him in the house at 9:48.
Then they show that he had made a cell phone call at 10:08 at or near the home. And then the dog goes missing, McKenzie, with a leash around the neck, at 10:18. So it's likely that between 10:08 and 10:18 is when Laci was abducted, according to the defense theory, but it doesn't make any sense. How could she have changed her clothes, put her shoes on, mopped the floor, walked out with the dog, put the leash around the dog, and then gone missing all in that time?
TOOBIN: And Anderson, I...
ALLRED: The time frame was bad for them...
COOPER: Jeff -- go ahead, Jeff...
ALLRED: ... the fact that the body washed up...
TOOBIN: I just...
ALLRED: ... near where he went fishing was bad for the defense as well.
TOOBIN: I think that is by far the most significant piece of evidence. It's always important to keep your eye on the obvious. Scott Peterson said he was fishing 80 miles away from his home on Christmas Eve. You know, people who don't live in California (UNINTELLIGIBLE) not realize, Modesto is well inland. San Francisco Bay is a long way away. Laci Peterson's body turns up precisely where Scott Peterson said he was fishing.
There is no decent, reasonable, nonincriminating explanation for that, except that Scott killed her. And I think that is by far the most important piece of evidence.
COOPER: In a moment I want to, in a moment I want to talk about possible appeal. I also want to talk about the penalty phase.
First I want to bring in some other guests, a well-known trial consultant, Paul Lisnek, from Chicago, and in Philadelphia, Howard, Varinsky, who helped pick the Peterson jury for the prosecution.
Gloria, stay with us, and Jeffrey as well. We'll continue our discussion right now.
Howard, let me start off with you. You helped pick the jury for the prosecution. Your thoughts upon hearing this conviction. What do you think it was that, that, that, that made the conviction possible?
HOWARD VARINSKY, JURY CONSULTANT: Well, first off all, I was elated. I was glad to see justice been done. It would have been a terrible thing for Scott Peterson to walk. And what I think made justice possible was the common sense of 12 good people. You know, the jury system, we can talk about jury consultants and we can talk about everybody trying to persuade them, but let me tell you something. There is nothing like the common sense of 12 people taken randomly from the community. And this case was so logical. Gloria mentioned the totality of the evidence. It was just a common sense, logical case, and there wasn't any other conclusion one could come to.
COOPER: But Paul...
VARINSKY: ... after seeing the evidence.
COOPER: Paul, let me bring you in. You know, a lot of the last two days, we've seen two jurors removed. A third juror had been removed a couple months ago. Are you surprised at how quickly the decision came once they got this sort of new makeup of the jury today?
PAUL LISNEK, TRIAL CONSULTANT: Yes, I am. I think, I think Mark Geragos was, since he wasn't there, reminiscent of the O.J. quick deliberation once this jury settled down.
But in the quick deliberation may, Anderson, be the telling of what happened. We had the removal of that previous foreman, who we know was very studious about going through every detail with the jury. With him removed and our paramedic foreman in, it may have been that a sense of reason returned to these jurors, who said, You know what? If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck, it is.
I'll join the choir by saying clearly now we see the verdict, it is one of common sense, that makes sense, but not proven, necessarily, by the evidence, in that there were no bloodstains, there were no marks of the murder. But what there is...
LISNEK: ... is a common sense conclusion.
COOPER: Howard, I got to ask you about the changes in this jury in the last week or so. When you heard, I mean, the foreman left, one person left, a woman left before that, did you have any sense of what the problems were? Do you have any idea of what kind of an impact that might have had on the jury?
VARINSKY: Yes, and I disagree with Paul and some of the other people who think that it had a tremendous impact on the jury.
First of all, this jury didn't come to a quick decision. The two new people that came in had been there throughout the trial. They had opinions, they saw all the evidence. And, you know, when they joined the deliberations, they were brought up to speed by the rest of the jurors, and they asked some questions, and they continued.
This wasn't a brand-new jury. Ten of these people were the same. I thought the jury went through a lot of changes, you know, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), I've never seen three jurors leave in the course of a few weeks. And I'm sorry, a few days. But, no, I don't think it changed the organism of the jury at all, or that it was...
COOPER: I, I want to...
LISNEK: ... a quick decision in any way.
COOPER: I wanted to, Gloria, I want to bring you in now. Let's talk about, first of all, the penalty phase. Do you think Scott Peterson is going to be put to death? Do you think these 12 jurors will make that decision?
ALLRED: Well, they'll listen to the testimony, and most likely there'll be testimony from his family and probably from Laci and Conner's family. And may I say, may they rest in peace, because they're ever in my mind, and I know have been in Amber's mind as well. They'll listen to the testimony and they'll make a decision.
It's a terrible, terrible, terrible crime to kill (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
COOPER: Do you want to see Scott Peterson...
ALLRED: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
COOPER: ... put to death?
ALLRED: ... both your wife and your son. And but...
ALLRED: ... no prior criminal history, so that's a factor in his favor, if there's any...
ALLRED: ... factor in his favor. There's not that much.
COOPER: Gloria, it's been said that Amber Frey does not want to see Scott Peterson put to death. Can you comment on that? Do you know what she wants?
ALLRED: She has no comment on whether or not he should be put to death. For that matter, she had no comment on whether or not he should be convicted. She always said, Anderson, that that was for the jury to decide and that God would be the ultimate judge. Now the jury...
COOPER: Jeffrey, (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
ALLRED: ... has deliberated, made its decision, and we'll have to see. I'm not sure yet whether in fact she would even be testifying in the death penalty phase. So we'll have to wait and see...
COOPER: OK, Jeffrey, we...
ALLRED: ... what (UNINTELLIGIBLE) about that. COOPER: ... we -- Jeffrey Toobin, we've been talking about these changes in the jury. Is that going to form the basis of some sort of appeal from the defense?
TOOBIN: Absolutely, it will be raised. But I think you need to step back and recognize something. The vast, vast majority of appeals in criminal cases fail. And there's very little reason to think that Scott Peterson will do any better.
However, the one thing that appeals courts pay a lot of attention to is whether a jury has been tampered with in any way. Virtually all of the proceedings about all these changes in the juror, in the jury in this last week have been behind closed doors. We don't know what really happened.
If these jurors were removed because they were too aggressively advocating for acquittal, well, that will be a problem on appeal. But if they're removed simply because they were acting irrationally, they were not deliberating, they were looking for evidence outside the record, then that won't be a problem at all.
COOPER: There's still a lot we don't know at that time. Jeffrey Toobin, Gloria Allred, appreciate you joining us. And Howard Varinsky, Paul Lisnek, appreciate it as well. Thanks for your expertise.
Coming up next on 360, what was it that tipped the scales for the jury? We're going to hear from all sides on that one.
Also, a closer look at Mark Geragos. He gets a lot of press, but in a courtroom, can he really perform?
Also tonight, the fight for Falluja. Let's remember, U.S. troops still fighting hard, slowly making their way into the insurgent-held city. Incredible images from the front lines ahead.
And Yasser Arafat, laid to rest. Hours later, President Bush's talks about his vision of a Palestinian state.
We're covering all the angles.
First, let's take a look at your picks, the most popular stories on CNN.com right now.
COOPER: And we are live in Los Angeles.
Our coverage of the Peterson verdict continues in a moment, but we want to bring you up to speed on some remarkable stories happening right now.
Take a look. In Falluja, the fighting rages on, and we are about to show you some of the most remarkable images of war we've ever seen. So far, 22 U.S. and Iraqi troops have been killed, about 170 have been wounded. Now, we thought you should know that of those 170 wounded, 40 soldiers were treated and sent right back into the chaos, the place you're about to see in this report by a journalist we've had on the program before, Michael Ware of "TIME" magazine.
MICHAEL WARE, "TIME" MAGAZINE: The fighting has been ferocious. When it occurs, the insurgents are attacking with everything they have. These men are fanatical, they are displaying time and time again a willingness to die. When they appear, the fight is terrible.
The insurgents are employing classic guerrilla tactics. They know they can't defeat the might of the U.S. military head on, so they're not trying to. From direct assaults and from well-concealed insurgents, I witnessed acts of indescribable horror, and I also witnessed acts of uncommon valor from the U.S. soldiers that I was with.
Among these soldiers, these men, and, quite frankly, these boys who have led this assault from the beginning, that were the first vehicles to enter the city, and they've been the tip of the spear from day one. The fight wasn't just street to street, nor was it just house to house, but on one occasion, in the middle of the night, it was room to room.
We were face to face with the insurgents who surprised us inside a house. We were only feet away, and it took an act of extraordinary valor from just a handful of these men to reenter that darkened house and take on that hidden enemy.
Their morale is high. They're dog tired. They're hungry. In the early hours of the morning, they're freezing cold. They're almost falling asleep on their feet. Yet the insurgents attack them in the moments you least expect.
Nonetheless, they're banding together in a way that was a witness, it was a privilege to witness.
COOPER: A privilege indeed.
At the White House today, President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair continued their talks on the Middle East, while in the Middle East, the body of Yasser Arafat was being laid to rest in Ramallah in the West Bank.
The scene, as you see, one of tumult and passion, but what may come now, that, that, but what comes now that this long chapter is over is anyone's guess.
With more from Washington, here's White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hours after Yasser Arafat's burial, President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced a renewed push for an end to conflict in the Middle East.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... months ahead, offering a new opportunity to make progress toward a lasting peace.
MALVEAUX: After two days of talks in Washington, Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair reaffirmed their commitment to a democratic Palestinian state at peace with its neighbor Israel should be the goal.
BUSH: And I'd like to see it done in four years. I think it is possible.
MALVEAUX: The leaders said they hoped to help the Palestinians organize democratic elections and, later, political and economic reforms.
TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: What we will do is anything that is necessary to make the strategy work.
MALVEAUX: President Bush was also cautious. He did not state a position on an international conference on the Mideast or to sending a U.S. envoy to the region. But he did reiterate he is ready to work with the quartet of nations most centrally involved in the peace process and announced he would travel to Europe shortly after his inauguration to reaffirm transatlantic ties.
BUSH: All that we hope to achieve together requires that America and Europe remain close partners. We are the pillars of the free world.
MALVEAUX: And this visit was not without politics. A newly reelected leader and one likely to face the voters soon, Mr. Bush delivered a ringing endorsement of the man who has faced relentless criticism of home, even being criticized as the president's poodle for backing the Iraq war.
BUSH: This are troubled times, it's a tough world. What this world needs is steady, rock-solid leaders who stand on principle. And that's what the prime minister means to me.
MALVEAUX: And senior administration officials say the president is likely to travel to Brussels, Belgium, in February to plant a metaphorical flag, one said, to show that he's committed to reaching out to European allies, Anderson.
COOPER: Suzanne Malveaux from the White House, thanks, Suzanne.
Coming up next on 360, our coverage of the Scott Peterson verdict continues. We take you inside the courtroom when the guilty verdicts were read. You could cut the tension with a knife, CNN's Rusty Dornin said. She should know. She was sitting right there. We'll talk to her. Plus, Mark Geragos, he's a household name right up there with Johnnie Cochran and F. Lee Bailey. But does he deliver in court? And where did this case go wrong?
Covering all the angles. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, April 22, 2003)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No parent should ever have to think about the way their child was murdered. In my mind, I keep hearing Laci say to me, Mom, please find me and Conner and bring us home. I'm scared. Please, don't leave us out here all alone. I want to come home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Those are the words spoken by Laci Peterson's mother in April of last year.
Her son-in-law, Scott, now waits sentencing. He could get the death penalty.
Before Mark Geragos became Peter's attorney, he called Scott a felony cad facing a, quote, "damning circumstantial case." Clearly, he must have reconsidered, because he took the case. Tonight, Scott Peterson's family and friends are no doubt asking what went wrong.
Two different perspectives now. I'm joined by former prosecutor in the O.J. Simpson trial, CNN legal analyst Chris Darden, and in Miami, defense attorney Jayne Weintraub, who has long supported Peterson's defense.
Good to see both of you.
Jayne, you know, when I heard this verdict, I had this image of you, you know, screaming at the TV. What do you think justice was served?
JAYNE WEINTRAUB, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: No, I don't, unfortunately, Anderson. I have to tell you, and I'm not unsympathetic to either family, the Rochas or the Petersons. But I have to tell you, I'm very passionate about our system working. And it's important that a verdict be reached based on the evidence.
And I don't think a verdict was based on the evidence in this case.
And I also want to say that a murder case is no time for a celebration. It was like a lynch mob out there on the TV the way we saw it. To me, a murder verdict, whether guilty or not guilty, it is a somber moment. And it should have been respected as such rather than the lynch mob that we saw.
COOPER: Well, this, this...
WEINTRAUB: It's a sad day. There were no winners in this case, Anderson.
COOPER: Yes, I mean, it certainly something about, you know, American culture that those kind of scenes we see all in all outside those courthouses.
Chris, I mean, you know how hard it is to try a case in the glare of the media spotlight. What did the prosecution do right, in your opinion?
CHRISTOPHER DARDEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, they were very slow and deliberate and meticulous in terms of putting together their circumstantial evidence case. They attempted to leave no stone unturned, and they put on everything they had, apparently. And I (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
COOPER: Jayne, what should, what should Mark Geragos have done differently?
WEINTRAUB: You know, Anderson, I don't know that it was Mark Geragos, and I don't know that any lawyer can now second-guess or be a Monday-morning quarterback.
You know, people ask me, Well, should he have gone on the witness stand? The answer is, no good lawyer would have put that man on the witness stand. Did Mark Geragos lose this case? No, I think Mark Geragos put up the best defense that he could put up for Scott Peterson.
I think that there were a lot of issues that are ripe for appeal in this case. I think passions ran high, the court of public opinion excusing these jurors one by one until there was a coerced verdict certainly brought the result we had. I mean, they didn't even deliberate...
COOPER: You think that was a crucial element...
WEINTRAUB: ... for a few hours.
COOPER: You think that was a crucial element, the removal of two jurors this week?
WEINTRAUB: I think the removal of that last juror, who wanted to methodically deliberate and go through his 19 books of evidence and his notes based on the evidence, yes, I think that threw the verdict. Look, (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
COOPER: Chris, what do you think about that?
WEINTRAUB: ... the jurors...
WEINTRAUB: ... there were lots, there was lots of misconduct we don't even know about yet. The jurors went on the boat on Monday, remember? They actually saw the boat, and without any supervision or against the court's instructions, one of the jurors got in that boat. COOPER: All right, Chris...
DARDEN: Well, certainly...
COOPER: ... what do you think of all that?
DARDEN: Well, you know, I think, certainly that in terms of an appeal, juror misconduct or juror misconduct and the removal of jurors is probably the most viable issue on appeal. But what we get back to, though, is a case of circumstantial evidence. And I can agree with Jayne when she says that, Hey, you know, it's circumstantial evidence, it can go either way depending on what inferences that you as a juror might draw, depending upon the quality of that circumstantial evidence.
However, you know, the jury sat there for five months. They heard the case. And I can't argue...
WEINTRAUB: Chris, they heard a lot of other stuff too.
DARDEN: ... I can't argue with the fact that they found him guilty, although I do understand and agree that with -- in terms of a lot of this circumstantial evidence, other people, other reasonable people, could have drawn different inferences from those drawn by the jury.
WEINTRAUB: ... I'll tell you an interesting footnote. You know, the way that we heard the verdict from the live feed, what I didn't hear was the judge instructing this jury right now, who's out for two weeks before the most crucial decision has to be made, the judge didn't even remind them, don't listen to the news, don't read the newspaper tomorrow.
You know, all the judge was instructed them was, don't talk about the case.
COOPER: All right...
WEINTRAUB: There is such a magnitude of media frenzy out there, it will be a miracle if they get to phase two, what we call the death phase, without further misconduct by the jurors.
COOPER: Jayne Weintraub, Chris Darden, appreciate you joining us. Thanks.
WEINTRAUB: Thanks, Anderson.
COOPER: 360 next, our special coverage of the Peterson verdict continues. We'll take you inside the courtroom when the verdict was read.
Plus, star lawyer losing the case. Where did Mark Geragos go wrong?
A lot ahead. Stay with us.
COOPER: Scott Peterson guilty of murder. What are the chances he'll get the death penalty? 360 next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT PETERSON: I had nothing to do with Laci's disappearance. Even if you think I did, think about Laci. And I know that there's a nation who wants to bring her home to our families.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That was Scott Peterson, of course, lying.
Welcome back. We are coming to you live from Los Angeles, California. For reasons not entirely clear, the five-months long trial of Scott Peterson captured much of the nation's and the media's attention.
Today, a verdict. A few hours ago, the jury found Scott Peterson guilty of first degree and second degree murder in the killing of his pregnant wife Laci and their unborn son. Peterson could get the death penalty. The sentencing hearing, November 22nd.
Now, there were no cameras in the courtroom, no dramatic video of Scott Peterson's reaction. But CNN's Rusty Dornin was there, saw it all with her own eyes and joins us now from Redwood City, California. Rusty, what was it like?
RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, it's difficult to explain to someone the kind of sort of invisible current that was in the air in that courtroom before this verdict was announced. I have been covering this case for two years, the trial for five months. Many of the reporters here have, as well. Everyone was very nervous. Laci Peterson's family was there. A few of her friends were crying before the jury even came in. Scott Peterson comes into the courtroom. He's smiling, talking with his attorneys, seeming very, very confident.
Then the jury comes in somber faced, hands the judge the verdict, he hands it to the clerk, and she reads the judgment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: State of California versus Scott Peterson. We, the jury, in the above entitled cause find the defendant, Scott Lee Peterson, guilty of the crime of murder of Laci Denise Peterson. We, the jury, in the above entitled cause find the defendant, Scott Lee Peterson, guilty of the crime of murder of baby Connor Peterson.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DORNIN: Now, from the time that verdict was read, Scott Peterson stared straight ahead, stone faced, never turned side to side. His family, minus his father, Lee Peterson, for some unknown reason was not in the courtroom. Neither was his attorney Mark Geragos, who apparently was in Southern California, but you could hear the gasp of both relief and sorrow from the Rocha family. Sharon Rocha, Laci Peterson's mother, breaking down in tears as her brother and also her friends.
Outside, you could hear how the people felt.
Several hundred people had gathered outside the courtroom here. We have had, of course, people following this case from day one. A couple, about 50 of them tried every day to try to get into the courtroom, showing how they feel. Of course, most of them being pro- prosecution.
Now, there have been a few of the local papers that came out right away. I think you saw the headlines in the David Mattingly piece, but this just came out from "The San Francisco Examiner." Also, big headlines, of course. Big news here, and, of course, big news across the country -- Anderson.
COOPER: Rusty Dornin, live from inside the courtroom. Thanks, Rusty, appreciate it.
Three jurors were dismissed from the Scott Peterson case before the verdict was reached today, two in the past week alone. Back in June, Justin Falconer, the original juror number five, became the first to go. He joins me from Kansas City with his view on the case. Justin, good to see you again.
Now, just days ago you told me you still would not have convicted Scott Peterson. What do you think this jury saw that you didn't?
JUSTIN FALCONER, DISMISSED JUROR: Well, they obviously saw four months of testimony that I didn't get to see, and whatever happened in that four months put them over the top.
I said -- I think it's going to be very interesting when those jurors come out and they start talking to see what it was exactly that put them over the top. Because I agree strongly with your -- I believe it was Janey, who was just on your show -- there was still a lot of speculation in this case, and I think there was a lot of questions that were left unanswered.
However, those questions were apparently answered for that jury, and they all came back unanimous for first degree. You know, it shocks me, but, you know, I expected a verdict today, and it came.
COOPER: Justin, you were there when Mark Geragos said that he would find -- that the jury would find Scott Peterson, he would prove Scott Peterson was stone cold innocent.
FALCONER: You're right. COOPER: What do you think went wrong for him? Do you think it was a mistake for him to say that?
FALCONER: You know what, what I think was a mistake was him saying that and not doing it in the end. He closed out really flat, and all of the things that he promised us from the very beginning were not there in the end.
And you know, even though he did bring it out of a lot of prosecution witnesses that there were people that saw Laci, that Laci did see the boat, that there was all this other stuff, there was still never any witnesses, and you know, I think the jury really wanted a chance to put their own, you know, put those witnesses on the stand so that they could get a read of those witnesses themselves.
COOPER: Would you have wanted to hear from Scott Peterson?
FALCONER: Absolutely, I would have wanted to hear from Scott Peterson. You know, here is a guy getting, you know, accused of this crime, and I'm sorry, but you know, if it were me being accused, especially if I was innocent, you couldn't keep me in that chair.
So you know, I understand where an attorney would say no because of all the lies and everything else, but there was, you know, this is fascinating. I can't wait for those jurors to come out and start talking and let us know exactly what was going through their minds.
COOPER: Do you think this jury could determine Scott Peterson should die?
FALCONER: Yeah, I do. I really do. I don't think they will. I don't think they'll kill him. I think they're going to -- I think they're going to put him in jail for the rest of his life, and then it's up to his attorneys with appeals and what not.
But you know, I do believe this jury is death qualified. I know that if it were me in there and I was convinced the way that they are of his guilt, then I would have no problem whatsoever putting him to death.
COOPER: Justin, it's good to talk to you. Justin Falconer, one of the original jury members from the case.
It's been a while since we heard Scott Peterson speak, his voice long been quiet, of course, shielded by his legal team. And Peterson himself never took the stand during his trial, as we just talked about.
Now, because of that, it was hard to grasp his personality for a lot of people. We had to rely on courtroom video or recordings and testimony from witnesses, nothing from the defendant himself.
CNN's Ted Rowlands, though, was one of the few people to actually sit down and talk with Peterson. He joins me now from Redwood City. Ted, thanks for joining us. You know, I want to take a look at a clip from an interview you did with Scott Peterson back in January of 2003 and then talk about it. Let's play the clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What was it that attracted you to her?
PETERSON: You always look for someone that completes you. You know, the harmony.
The easiest thing and the easiest way to answer that is you've seen her picture on the fliers, with the big old smile, and that tells you everything you need to know about her. If that doesn't attract you to someone, then, well, you know...
ROWLANDS: Was that this house? Happy, smiling?
PETERSON: Oh, definitely. Yeah. I mean, you've seen interviews with her friends, the way that, you know, we liked to entertain here and have people over. Yeah, it's very quiet now and it shouldn't be. And it won't be when she gets back. It will be...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: You know, Ted, it's fascinating, I mean, for me to watch this now, knowing he is lying. At the time, did it seem convincing?
ROWLANDS: Well, yes and no. What does seem convincing about Scott Peterson is when you talk to him face to face or over the phone, and that's what we did leading up to that interview, pretty much on a daily basis since his wife was reported missing. During the interview itself, I really got the feeling that he was saying what he thought people wanted him to hear, and he wouldn't answer certain questions.
At the time, I knew he was lying about certain things. I mean, he told me, well, I can't answer this or that because investigators wouldn't want me to say that. Well, obviously, investigators wanted him to open up.
So during the interview itself, it was really a situation where I felt like he was just saying what he thought people wanted to hear.
Otherwise, though, you talk to family members, and once you meet him in person, he does come across at times as being very, very genuine. And you could see why the Rocha family stuck by him for weeks. You can see why they fell in love with him when Laci brought him home for the first time. He is a guy that does have a lot of character, and he knows what to say and he makes people feel good.
COOPER: Well, one of the other things he talked to you about was his unborn son Connor, and remember this is the time when people just thought Laci Peterson was missing. Let's take a look what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PETERSON: That's why these next couple of weeks are so critical. February 16th is the due date. So we need to get the fliers out there to all the medical offices that we can. The nursery is ready for him. That door is closed. I can't look, you know, in that door.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: You know, he says the nursery is ready. The jury saw this interview, and then saw the video of the same nursery filled with boxes.
ROWLANDS: Yes, and there is a discrepancy there because the family was living in that house, but, definitely, another thing that maybe the jury looked at as another discrepancy about what Scott Peterson was saying.
And at times while it does seem as though he's lying, I think when he was talking about his son, I think it really may have hit home there, and that was very genuine. I mean, this is a guy that completely redid the nursery in a nautical theme, and helped build it. It's hard to grasp Scott Peterson. And I think that anyone who knows him, and even his own family will tell you that.
COOPER: Well, the jury, I guess, determined he was a murderer twice over. And they reached that verdict today. Ted Rowlands, thanks for joining us.
You know, covering a case like this is tricky. It's easy to get caught up in the spectacle of a trial, the drama of a man's life and freedom hanging in the balance. It's easy to forget that these are real people. And it's easy to forget who the real victims are.
We talk a lot about Scott Peterson, about his high-profile attorney, about jurors. Less often do we talk about the young woman whose life was taken just as she was preparing to give new life.
She was born Laci Rocha. With brown eyes, her friends say sparkled. She grew up in California's central valley in Modesto farm country. She was talkative as a kid, they say. So much so that her stepfather lovingly called her Jabber Jaws.
In high school, there was softball and cheerleading and no doubt hopes and dreams. College was in San Luis Obispo. She majored in horticulture. And that's where she met the man she loved. The man she married in a romantic beach ceremony in 1997.
Together, they opened a restaurant in their college town. A place they called the Shack. Scott worked the grill, Laci did the decorating. Eventually, they moved back to Modesto so that Laci could be near her folks.
She spoke to her mother nearly every day on the phone. In the pictures, there are smiles. Laci had already named her unborn son, Conner.
Two lives cut short, two lives that tonight should not be forgotten.
We'll be right back with more coverage of the trial and the verdict.
COOPER: Live from Los Angeles. Mark Geragos had promised the jury in his opening statement that the evidence would prove Peterson was quote, "stone cold innocent." Gloria Allred, Amber Frey's attorney, said he would only prove Peterson was stone cold.
For Geragos, the loss today is a big one.
MARK GERAGOS, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: This case is intriguing, if for nothing else that the more there's a lynch mob mentality out there for him, the more that it's intriguing.
COOPER (voice-over): Part defense attorney and part PR machine, Mark Geragos has plenty of what every big-time barrister needs: a gift of gab and the ability to argue any point ad nauseum.
GERAGOS: It's my preference that when my client comes in...
COOPER: He has a client list that reads like a high-profile who's who. But has faced his often difficult cases with decidedly mixed results.
In 1998 he won acquittals in two trials for Susan McDougal, Clinton friend and Whitewater defendant. He's represented Roger Clinton on drunk driving charges, Robert Downey Jr. On drug charges and Congressman Gary Condit during the search for Chandra Levy.
And he famously failed to win an acquittal for Winona Ryder when she was accused of shoplifted in Saks. And was dismissed by Michael Jackson from his molestation case, a case Geragos took after he signed on as Scott Peterson's attorney.
Still, win or lose, the gregarious and glib Geragos never met a camera he didn't like. Often an cause of controversy, like when he told TV audiences he wasn't all that convinced Scott Peterson could go free.
GERAGOS: It's a damning circumstantial case. The man is a sociopath if he did this crime. I mean, there's no other way to put it.
COOPER: But just days later, Geragos took on the case.
It's too soon to tell if this loss will make Mark Geragos attorney nongrata for the rich and legally challenged. But we'll bet he'll be back on TV making his case as soon as the sentence is passed.
(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: To talk about the case, joining in New York are Westchester County district attorney Jeanine Pirro, and defense attorney Mickey Sherman. Good to see both of you.
Mickey, let me start out with you. You were with Michael Skakel when he heard the guilty verdict. What does a defense attorney say to a client who just heard this?
MICKEY SHERMAN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: There's nothing you can say, Anderson. I've got to tell you, I don't even remember what I said, I was in shock then. Frankly, I'm still in shock now from that verdict.
You know, you want to be consoling. But I think at that point, Michael, being the kind of guy he is, and was at that time as well, was doing more consoling of me. I was just absolutely apoplectic, I couldn't could not believe that that jury came to that finding.
COOPER: Mickey, how unusual was it today that Geragos wasn't there today?
SHERMAN: It's very unusual. But you have to remember, I don't think he was out golfing or going to the movies. Mark Geragos like any other criminal lawyer, high profile or not, has a lot of cases. And you can't tell judge schmo in county ibswitch that I'm waiting for a jury, judge, so I can't be there for the hearing that you scheduled. They don't want to hear that.
So my guess is that he got whipsawed by one judge who just didn't want hear an excuse.
COOPER: Jeanine, the penalty phase scheduled to start November 22. Peterson is eligible for the death penalty. What should we expect?
JEANINE PIRRO, PROSECUTOR: Well, I think that we can expect that the prosecution, Jim Braselton and the members of his staff will go full bore on this thing. You can expect that the prosecutors will show all of the aggravating circumstances, the heinousness of this crime, the fact that a woman, about to give birth, was murdered by the man who said he would love her and care for her the rest of her life.
And then on the defense side, there will be people trying to say this is a man who is worth keeping with us.
But I don't know if that is going to ply fly. This was a very strong jury, Anderson. They made this decision to return a murder one conviction in a very short period of time once the jury came together.
And by the way, I have to disagree with my friend Mickey Sherman, the fact that Geragos wasn't there today, unless he had a family emergency, and I've been a judge, there isn't any defense attorney that I wouldn't let out of my courtroom if a verdict came back if he were in my courtroom on a murder one case. He was out there from the beginning and he loses credibility, Mickey, by not being out there now.
SHERMAN: I assume he was not in the immediate area. I think that he probably was in another part of the state. I could be wrong.
PIRRO: Well, we don't know.
SHERMAN: ..that he wouldn't be there if he could be there. I'd want to be there.
COOPER: OK. Let's talk about the possibility of an appeal. Mickey, obviously, the Peterson side is going to want to file some sort of appeal. A lot of talk about the changes in the jury over the last week or so. What do you think the biggest case he has for an appeal is?
SHERMAN: I think that's probably going to be his best grounds, although, I'm not an appellate specialist. But, you know, the stuff with the jury -- the problem is it was kept behind closed doors. So we don't know how well the judge made a record in keeping everything sacrosanct.
But, you know, when you have the jurors who are allegedly contaminating other jurors having done research on the Internet, going in and out, that's kind of tricky stuff. Problem is, you're going to ask an appellate court to say that this judge, Judge Delucchi who essentially bent over backwards most of the trial for the defense, you're going to have to convince that appellate court that this guy screwed up. It's a real uphill battle.
COOPER: Jeanine, do you agree with that? Real uphill battle for an appeal?
PIRRO: Yes. I do agree with that. Here you have a judge who gave Geragos everything he wanted, every adjournment, almost every charge he wanted. And you saw him criticize the prosecution. This is a judge who was well respected. And even though we don't know the reason that that second foreperson was removed, you can rest assured that there was good reason in the record. No judge would remove a juror during the course of deliberations in a murder one case unless there were good cause to do so.
COOPER: Do you think Scott Peterson, Jeanine, will be put to death?
PIRRO: You know, I the think that this jury -- the fact that they returned a verdict so early knows that they're clear on their mission. But they know that Scott Peterson wanted his freedom, he wanted to not have the burden of a wife, a mortgage and children. They might think even though they're death penalty eligible that the more serious punishment might be life behind bars for the rest of his life.
COOPER: I got to end it there. Jeanine Pirro, I appreciate you joining us. And Mickey Sherman, good to see you as well, thanks very much.
360 next, Scott Peterson lied to an awful lot of people and the tapes prove it. In a moment, you will hear his deception. The audiotapes that some say did him in. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMBER FREY, SCOTT PETERSON'S MISTRESS: OK, first of all, I met Scott Peterson November 20th, 2002. I was introduced to him. I was told he was unmarried. Scott told me he was not married. We did have a romantic relationship.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, that relationship may have sunk Scott Peterson's case. The prosecution used it to depict Peterson as a man who was not by any means, a loving husband to Laci. And in August the jury heard key evidence, recordings of intimate conversations between Peterson and his mistress that showed the defendant could not be trusted.
COOPER: There were no faces, only voices, but their lies spoke volumes. The jury first heard Scott Peterson lying to his lover Amber Frey about being in Paris on New Year's Eve. He had actually never left the state of California.
FREY: How was your New Year's?
PETERSON: It's good. Everyone's in the bar now, so I came out in an alley. A quiet alley. Isn't that nice?
FREY: Yeah, it is. I can hear you. Very good.
PETERSON: It's pretty awesome, fireworks there at the Eiffel Tower. A mass of people all playing American pop songs.
COOPER: Then, one day later, more from Peterson about his feelings for Frey.
PETERSON: I don't know, I mean just the possibilities, you know, in the future where we want to go and who we want to be together and...
FREY: So what do you want to be together with me?
PETERSON: Well, I mean, obviously, my, you know, my thoughts are that I think that we, you know, would be wonderful together.
COOPER: Just days after that conversation, Frey learns the truth about Peterson's missing wife.
PETERSON: I have not been traveling during the last couple weeks. I have -- I have lied to you that I've been traveling.
PETERSON: The girl I'm married to, her name is Laci.
PETERSON: She disappeared just before Christmas. For the past two weeks, I've been in Modesto with her family and mine searching for her.
PETERSON: She just disappeared and no one knows...
FREY: OK now...
PETERSON: ... where she's been.
FREY: Scott? Are you listening?
PETERSON: I am.
FREY: You came to me earlier in December and told me that you had lost your wife. What was that about?
PETERSON: She -- I mean, she's alive.
FREY: Where? She's alive? Where?
PETERSON: In Modesto. Now, I know, I've -- this is the hardest, I, I wanted to tell you in person. I -- here's -- you need to protect yourself from the media.
COOPER: The last call the jury heard between the two was Frey ending her relationship with Peterson.
FREY: I think right now for me, Scott, and really everything that has happened in the last 50-plus days for myself and, and the family and you and everything that's going on right now, I think it would be best if you and I didn't talk any more until there's resolution in this whole...
PETERSON: Yeah, I agree with that.
FREY: Good, good.
PETERSON: You're right.
FREY: OK, well, that wasn't so hard.
PETERSON: No, it's the right thing.
PETERSON: It's the right thing, so, yeah, goodbye for now.
PETERSON: Goodbye for now.
FREY: Good life, no? PETERSON: Goodbye for now.
FREY: Goodbye, Scott.
COOPER: Well, those were the tapes.
We'll have some final thoughts on the judgment of Scott Peterson next.
COOPER: Tonight, taking judgment to "The Nth Degree."
So the trial that has so engaged us, so many for so long, is over. A jury has decided that Scott Peterson did, in fact, murder his 27-year-old wife Laci, ending not only her life, but also the unbegan life of the child she was carrying. In its terrible details, an unborn child and a strangled woman washed up on shore. This might have been a Greek tragedy, except for its mild and mundane modern cast.
A pleasant seeming young man, unremarkably nice-looking, a guy you might or might not notice sitting at the next table at lunch. He was, of all things, a fertilizer salesman. And a young woman with a bright smile, looking energetic in all the photos, and clearly delighted to be having a child.
All in all, a nice couple, except that she is dead and he may yet be, or in prison for decades for having committed a grisly crime.
The movies are all wrong. Villains do not snarl nor have scars and horns and other visible marks that make them easy to pick out. To the contrary, they look just like the rest of us. That's the bad news. Evil is so bland, you can look right at it and not know what you're seeing.
I hope you all have a great weekend. I'll be back in New York on Monday. Thanks for watching. I'm Anderson Cooper. "PAULA ZAHN NOW" is next.
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