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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Scott Peterson Found Guilty
Aired November 12, 2004 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Scott Peterson hears his fate -- guilty of killing his wife, Laci. Guilty of killing their unborn son, Connor. Could face the death penalty or life in prison without parole.
We've got insiders on the dramatic reaction inside and outside the courtroom. Chuck Smith, former prosecutor in the county where the trial was held. Defense attorney Trent Copeland, who was in court for closing arguments. Court TV's Nancy Grace, the former prosecutor, inside the courtroom when the verdict was read today. High profile defense attorney Chris Pixley. Dr. Henry Lee, the renowned forensic scientist, who consulted with the Peterson defense but didn't testify. Ted Rowlands, CNN correspondent, on top of the story from day one. Richard Cole, the veteran court reporter. He covered the entire trial for "The Daily News Group."
We'll also be joined by Amber Frey's father. What does she think of the verdict? And former Peterson juror Justin Falconer, dismissed from the panel in June. All next on LARRY KING LIVE.
Let's run down the panel's immediate thoughts. Chuck Smith, the judge said start the deliberations over, and six hours later a verdict. Were you surprised?
CHUCK SMITH, FORMER PROSECUTOR: All of us were surprised, Larry, but obviously 10 of those jurors had been deliberating for four-plus days, and the two new people that came in over the last couple of days obviously were comfortable with the fact that they believed Scott Peterson was guilty, and so we got a verdict in relatively short order. And it was an amazing, extraordinary moment there at the Redwood City courthouse. I've never seen anything like it.
KING: Trent Copeland, surprised?
TRENT COPELAND, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I couldn't be more surprised, Larry. It's hard to imagine that this jury, when given the instructions by the judge to go back, start deliberations all over, that they would come back with a verdict in less than six hours. I mean, it's just really hard to imagine, and I think it may even offer an avenue for an appeal for Mark Geragos.
KING: Nancy Grace, surprised?
NANCY GRACE, COURT TV: Not surprised at all. In fact, as I waited, number one in line to get into the courtroom for the verdict, Larry, everyone was discussing what would the verdict be? I had no doubt in my mind. There was a vague sense that some people thought there would be a mistrial, but when I heard there was a verdict -- remember, most of these jurors had been deliberating for over 30 hours. The reconstituted jury had been together for 6 1/2 hours. They had been listening to evidence over five months. I don't think it took them that long. And Trent Copeland, good luck if you think this is a grounds for appeal.
KING: Chris Pixley, what are your thoughts?
CHRIS PIXLEY, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, you know, it's interesting. At the closing arguments, the prosecution said either Scott Peterson killed his wife or someone else did it and framed him, but if somebody framed Scott Peterson, why did they weigh the body down in the bay? Mark Geragos did a wonderful job, I think, attacking the prosecution's theory.
In the end, it was the defense theories that I think also didn't hold water. And I would agree with Trent and with Chuck. It is extraordinary that in this short period of time, this reconstituted jury came back with a decision. But I think ultimately, they had problems buying any of the defense theories, and that's ultimately what led to this first-degree murder charge, at least conviction with respect to Laci.
KING: Dr. Lee, why didn't the forensics work at all for the defense?
DR. HENRY LEE, FORENSIC EXPERT: Well, when I heard the verdict, it was a surprise, too. As I say before, if the jury use compassion (UNINTELLIGIBLE) they will go to a conviction. If the jury look at the physical evidence, use logic, they are probably going to acquit him. And it looks like, you know, the defense did not really use physical evidence to prove otherwise.
KING: Ted Rowlands, why do you think there was jubilation at the courtroom? I mean, this is a sad, sad story all the way around. Why would it lead to cheering either way?
TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, outside the courthouse, there was jubilation, because I think that in the court of public opinion, Scott Peterson was convicted shortly after his wife disappeared. He is the husband, he was lying, he appeared to be guilty. He gave off that sense from the very beginning. And people who were not following the case really in their hearts knew for sure that he was guilty. And they came out here in force. And when the verdict was read over a loudspeaker, it was jubilation.
Inside the courtroom, there was no jubilation, and it was a much different scene. However, I just think that people were -- were afraid that justice was not going to be carried out, the justice that they had in their minds, and there were more people think -- that think Scott Peterson was guilty than people that think he was not guilty.
KING: Richard Cole, were you surprised?
RICHARD COLE, DAILY NEWS GROUP: I was shocked. You know, I've been on this, and I'm sure Nancy Grace is going to smack me over the head with it time after time tonight saying that I thought there would be an acquittal or a hung jury.
KING: But you did say that.
COLE: I don't understand -- yeah, I said it many, many times. And I don't understand how 12 people could have looked at the set of facts in this case and come back with a first-degree murder verdict and a second-degree murder verdict. I just don't understand it.
I didn't think the evidence was there. I go back to what Dr. Lee said. I think he hit it right on the head. You either saw this case through your emotions, or you saw it through logic. And the people who looked at it through logic said they didn't think there was a conviction there. But the people who said, by God, I hate Scott Peterson, he was cheating on his pregnant wife, he deserves to die, apparently they won.
KING: Before we continue with the panel, take a listen to the court clerk as she reads the verdicts.
(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. In violation of the Penal Code Section 187A, as alleged in count 1 of the information filed herein. Dated November 12th, year 2004, foreperson, number six.
JUDGE ALFRED DELUCCHI: Foreperson, is this the verdict of the jury with respect to count 1?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is, your honor.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We, the jury, find the degree of the murder to be that of the first degree. Dated November 12th, 2004, foreperson, number six.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Chuck Smith, why do you think different degrees in each murder?
SMITH: You know, Larry, that's fairly easy to explain. First- degree murder is deliberate and premeditated. Second-degree murder is not deliberate and premeditated. Premeditated simply means considered beforehand. Deliberate means -- or deliberate means carefully consider the reasons for and the reasons against killing, and with the consequences in mind, decide to and do kill.
They found that that frame of mind was directed towards Laci Peterson; it was not directed towards Connor Peterson. It's a logical explanation, I think the only logical explanation for the split verdict between fist and second.
Larry, if I can address the jubilation, because this is my community. I didn't think the jubilation was inappropriate. The outpouring in this community for the family of Laci Peterson, that beautiful young girl and her unborn child has really been remarkable. And people so much wanted someone to be held responsible for it. They were there supporting that family. And when the evidence started to mount, I think appropriately, they were there to be happy when they believed that the correct verdict was found.
KING: So it was like closure to them?
SMITH: Oh, absolutely. Sure. And the community needs that. Society needs that. The jury, I'm proud of what these San Mateo County jurors did. I think they got it right, and I think it's justice, and I feel good about our county and the way our county handled this.
KING: Trent Copeland, you think one of the -- if there were two keys to the loss, was Amber Frey's testimony that he already told his wife was dying or dead, and the fact that he was where the body was.
COPELAND: You know, Larry, at the end of the day...
KING: It look like a duck.
COPELAND: At the end of the -- it quacks like a duck, it is a duck. And at the end of the day, Larry, the fact that Scott Peterson and Mark Geragos and that defense team could not explain away -- and remember, Larry, in the defense's case in chief, they attacked that prosecution's evidence I think squarely and did a pretty good job of attacking the circumstantial evidence, but they didn't even address the issue of why Scott Peterson was where those bodies were found.
And I don't mean to sound a lot like a real estate agent, but this came down to location, location, location.
KING: Nancy, is there any question that the state didn't prove the case?
GRACE: Well, based on the verdict, absolutely not. There's no question...
KING: No, I mean, in your mind, Nancy? I'm not talking about the jury, I'm talking your mind?
GRACE: No. I said all along, when he was fishing where her body turned up, that sealed it for me. It was never explained away. And Geragos had every opportunity to do that. He had a lot of theories that he threw out, but never put up a single viable witness to support one of those theories. And frankly, I'm stunned at the panel tonight, to say that this jury acted from their heart, from their emotions, from anger. When logically, when you look at the case, the man is fishing where his wife is disposed of. That is logical.
Now, my big question is what's going to happen come penalty phase and whether Peterson will dare to take the stand.
KING: Well, I'll get to that in a while. I'm not there yet. Chris Pixley, would you counter what Nancy said or not?
PIXLEY: I think I would. I mean, it's not -- this was not a slam dunk as Bill Lockyer said, the state attorney general for California, months and months ago. It didn't shape up that way. Very early on, we knew that we had a fight.
And what's so ironic to me, I mean, Chuck says that the reason this jury came down with a first-degree murder convictions with respect to Laci and second-degree with respect to Connor is that it all just seems to fit together nicely that way, that he was deliberate with respect to Laci. But of course, he wasn't deliberate with respect to Connor.
And that means, in my opinion, that the jury didn't buy the prosecution's theory. The prosecution's theory, as they stated in their closing argument, in fact, in their rebuttal they said, we didn't have to tell you what we thought until our closing argument, was that back in October, Scott Peterson started planning this murder.
If that's the case, it's first degree with respect to Laci and Connor. The fact that they found second degree with respect to Connor, says to me they were doing some creative work in that jury and that they believe the ultimate answer is something than what Mark Geragos and Rick Distaso told them.
KING: Let me get a break. We'll pick right up. Our panels with us all the way. Don't go away.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We the jury in the above entitled cause find the defendant, Scott Lee Peterson guilty of the crime of murder of baby Connor Peterson in violation of penal code section 187-1 as alleged in count 2 of the information filed herein. Dated November 12, 2004, foreperson No. 6.
DELUCCHI: Is that the unanimous verdict of the jury with respect to count 2 of the information?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is, your honor.
DELUCCHI: You want to read the degree for me, please.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We the jury further find the degree of murder to be that of the second degree. Dated November 12, 2004, foreperson No. 6.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're joined in this segment by Justin Falconer, in Kansas City, Missouri, a former member of the Peterson jury. He was replaced after 5 weeks for talking to Laci's brother. When he appeared on this program he always hinted this would be not guilty. Were you surprised?
JUSTIN FALCONER, FORMER PETERSON JURY MEMBER: To say the least. I was shocked. I'm in the same boat as Richard Cole and Dr. Henry Lee, and some of the other people on your panel.
If you look at the evidence on this, it's hard to come back with first-degree murder. But if you look at the emotion on this case, you can convict him five times over. And I think that's what happened here.
KING: What do you think did it?
FALCONER: I'm sorry, what ?
KING: What do you think led to that verdict?
FALCONER: I don't know. I know juror No. 6 is a pretty strong character. And I know that there was going to be a verdict today or at least very soon. I think I said that before. But what pushed him over the hill, I don't know.
I can't wait until they come out and talk about it. Because I think this is going to be debated for a long time.
KING: Ted Rowlands, what do you think it was? What do you think pushed them over? Nancy is saying it's open and shut.
ROWLANDS: I think that what they did was they took a step back and I think they asked the questions, did Rick Distaso presented to them in close? I mean, who else did this? And what's the scenario here? Who else killed Laci Peterson? In their mind, there was no explanation for that.
And I think, a lot of people have downplayed the Amber Frey tapes and her involvement in this. But I think it really offered a window into Scott Peterson's mind which turned, most likely, some jurors off.
Because what he's talking about, with her, at the times that he's doing it, is hard to understand. He's at a vigil for his missing wife, and he's claiming he's in Paris with such detailed lies.
And he never admitted that he killed her to Amber Frey, but I tell you he's different than your average cheating fertilizer salesman. And I think that that had to have an effect in terms of mentality, saying if he can do that, who knows what else he's capable of. KING: He did not, did he, Justin go a bit far?
FALCONER: Oh, he went way, way farther than a bit. I mean, his lies, I never, ever questioned that. I mean, he's liar to the third degree. But the only problem that I had, was where exactly do you bridge the liar into the murderer. And I think the strongest thing they had was the fact that the bodies washed up where he was.
And that might be what pushed him over. They said, you know, this guy's full of it. The bodies washed up where he was. We can't believe anything he says. So he's got to be guilty.
I trust everybody in that room. And if they came up with a guilty, and they're unanimous like that, then he's got to be guilty. And so I think it's going to be debated, but I think that could be what pushed him over.
KING: It took courage to say that.
Dr. Lee, do you agree that that was the key, where the boat was, where he was, where the body was?
LEE: That's part of the reason. Of course, this case, I think they shift the burden of proof to the defense. And they want the defense to introduce some solid physical evidence to prove otherwise. And when they see Mark Geragos and defense did not introduce any solid physical evidence, nor a reasonable explanation, now, of course, they look back, if it's not him, then who was the person?
KING: Richard Cole, since Geragos wanted to introduce his own taped version of the boat, is that appealable that it was not allowed?
COLE: There's a million grounds for appeals. The judge himself called this whole case a petri dish for an appeals court. He's the first judge to ever allow into evidence the tracking, the dog tracking of a victim, as opposed to a suspect.
The boat, the whole issue of allowing the prosecution to do demonstrations with the boat, but not allowing the defense demonstrations, even though I think the judge had a valid point on it, that's going to be an issue.
I think one of the biggest issues, what happened in the jury room. And as we're finding out today, it was kind of an nightmare in there. Dr. Gregory Jackson, who was the original foreman, the one who basically quit on Wednesday morning, he told Judge Delucchi that he had been threatened in the jury room, because he was trying to go through the evidence methodically and the jurors didn't want any part of it.
He said, I will not be part of a verdict that I think is being done to please the community as opposed to being based on the evidence. And I will not be part of a verdict I think is being done in part with an eye on the book rights. He said, I can't do it. And I'm afraid that there's so much hostility that they're going to coerce me into it. Now that's why -- remember, when juror 7 was kicked off the panel, Mark Geragos didn't say anything. When the foreman, when Dr. Jackson was kicked off the panel, Mark Geragos asked for a mistrial. I think the distinction is very important. He felt that what happened in the jury room went beyond the bounds. And that's yet another reason for an appeal.
KING: Chuck Smith, if what Richard Cole is saying is correct, does that upset you?
SMITH: Well, sure. That is a problem. But I think that what the source -- and I think Richard's a great reporter, but the source of his information might be embellishing that a little bit for their own purposes.
But you know, going back, if I may, Larry. First of all, I think Ted's got it right on the head when he says those Amber tapes gave us a window on his mind. Those Amber tapes gave us a window on his soul, and it was a black soul. And it was terrible.
But the question I would also have for Dr. Lee, in the issue of the absence of forensic evidence is this. Two weeks ago when Dr. Lee was with us, Larry, he said that he wasn't called because the defense was concerned about the hypothetical questions that he might be asked.
And I think that what that means, Dr. Lee would have to acknowledge, depending on the manner of killing, if it was smothering or strangulation, Dr. Lee has probably seen and worked on cases, that when the killing was in that manner, there wasn't any forensic evidence, even though the individual still did it. And I think that's the issue. And I'd like to hear Dr. Lee address that.
KING: And I will have him -- I have got to take a break. Justin, I want to thank you for joining us. But quickly, Justin, you'll be back in a couple of weeks with us but what do you think they're going to do in the penalty phase? It's early. Again, we're just guessing. What do you think because you know these jurors.
FALCONER: You know, I don't think they'll kill him. I really think he's going to get life in prison. That's my guess right now.
KING: All right. We'll take a break. We thank you, Justin. We'll be calling on you again in a couple of weeks. When we come back we'll have Dr. Lee respond to that question. More guests and more of your comments as well. Don't go away.
KING: Before Dr. Lee responds to Chuck and I ask Nancy about reaction in the courtroom, Trent just -- he pointed out to me that in California, unlike many states, if the jury says death, it's death. It's not the judge -- it's not a recommendation of death, it's death. The judge has no prerogative. They say life or death.
COPELAND: That's right.
KING: Dr. Lee, is it true, as Chuck said, you didn't testify because in a smothering case, there is no physical evidence?
LEE: Well, Chuck, that's an excellent question. As I say, couple of days ago on your program, Larry, I was in Redwood City. We had quite a few hours, late night pre-trial conference discuss the pro and con. Although I reexam 40-some pieces evidence, review 600 pages of documentation, went back to the crime scene, participated re- autopsy of Laci and the coroner, but we did not find any evidence. But did not find evidence...
KING: If there were smothering, would there have been evidence?
LEE: Depends on -- sometime we find saliva, large amount of saliva, nasal secretion, mixed with small amount of blood on the pillow. Also, we usually can find some urine, fecal material, body fluid on the bed sheet and the quilt. Don't forget, she is pregnant. Late stage of pregnant. In theory, you should find some evidence, which did not find.
KING: Nancy, what happened in the courtroom? What was the reaction of Peterson, the Peterson family? You were right there. What happened?
GRACE: You're right, Larry. I was seated right behind the Rocha family and Laci's girlfriends, all there together to the very end. When the jury came into the courtroom, you could have cut the tension like a knife. Every seat was pulled. I turned around and looked, Larry, and shoulder to shoulder all the way around the courtroom was ringed with sheriffs and police officers in uniform and out of uniform, waiting for the verdict. No less than 15 sheriffs in the courtroom to maintain order. When the jury came in, Larry, many of them looked straight over at Sharon Rocha and juror number 11, the lady accountant on the front row smiled at Sharon Rocha.
Larry, I got to tell you, I knew in my heart right then what the verdict was going to be. Then, when they were all polled, I never had a doubt that anybody was going to crack and say, no, that's not my verdict. But there was not this jubilation that everybody is talking about. I was here. The heartbreak in that courtroom from some sighs was tangible...
KING: Well, outside there was cheering. Outside there was cheering.
GRACE: When I came out of the courthouse, people began clapping. And people were not yelling down with Scott, pro-death penalty. I think it was just relief that the case was over.
ROWLANDS: You could roll the videotape of people in jubilation. Nancy maybe thinks she could hear and see everything from everywhere. But it's just not true. There was jubilation. When the Peterson family left this courthouse, they cheered and jeered them. And Chuck Smith may love his community but that was a very ugly side of it. And it was embarrassing to be here when that happened. Because there was absolutely no reason for people to attack the Peterson family as they left the courthouse, which is exactly what happened when Jackie Peterson left. KING: What did the Petersons do wrong, Chuck?
SMITH: I don't think the Petersons did anything wrong. I was in the plaza with Ted Rowlands at that time. And I do admit, I do not defend that part of it. That was wrong. But the jubilation, when the verdict was read, I think was heartfelt. And I think was appropriate. I didn't like either the fact that they clapped and cheered when the Petersons came out. And I said so to Ted at the time. I said that's just wrong. They shouldn't do that. But it wasn't overwhelming.
KING: Trent Copeland, we're going to get to the penalty phase in a minute. You said to me, if there's a death penalty here, this case will be talked about for ten years. Why?
COPELAND: You know, look, Larry, there are a number of evidentiary issues that will go up on appeal, not the least of which is whether or not the second degree murder charge ever should have gone to the jury. I know Chuck earlier said that he thinks that this all logically fits together. But it frankly doesn't. You can't believe, as this jury was presumed to have done that Scott Peterson intended, premeditated, deliberately planned to kill Laci Peterson and didn't think about the consequences to baby Conner. The second degree murder provision and I will tell you, Larry, that it will be exhibit one to this defense's appeal on this case...
KING: ...throw out the second charge but leave the first.
COPELAND: It creates an infirmity in the entire process, the deliberation process...
SMITH: What they would do is they would do...
COPELAND: No, Chuck, I don't think that's right. I think that coupled with other issues relating to the jurors being dismissed, relating to the venue. Remember, Larry, Mark Geragos didn't even want this case tried in Redwood City or Stanislaus County based on the fact that he believed that there was too much pre-trial publicity that was adverse to him. That will be exhibit 2, Chuck. And I think that all of us can agree that there are a host of evidentiary issues that will certainly go up on appeal with this case. And we'll be talking about it, Larry, for many many years...
KING: Chuck, you did say that in previous shows. There are a lot of appealable things here. Didn't you say that?
SMITH: Sure. But I haven't been a big advocate of the appealable issues. I agree with the judge that it's a petri dish of sorts. I think the most dangerous decision that Judge Delucchi made was not letting the defense have their demonstration. But other than that, I don't know that there are that many. And to answer Trent's question directly, if there's an infirmity with the second degree and the anomaly there, they would simply reduce the first degree to a second. They wouldn't reverse the convictions and Scott Peterson would do 30 to life, which is the equivalent of life and so that is not a panacea or the Holy Grail for the defense in any way.
KING: I see. Let me get a break and come back. And we'll talk about the penalty phase right after these words.
KING: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE. Before we reintroduce the panel, let's go to Fresno, California, check in with Ron Frey, the father of Amber Frey. We thank him very much for joining us. Ron, what was your reaction to the verdict?
RON FREY, AMBER FREY'S FATHER: We were just upset, it was so hard, we were crying, sir.
KING: Crying over the fact that he was found guilty?
FREY: Well, just that -- guilty, it -- just the conclusion. I don't know why, but we were all crying. It was very, very hard for everybody. Maybe it's because it's putting a legal meaning to that he's officially guilty now.
KING: I understand. What did Amber tell you? What was her reaction?
FREY: I asked her if she wanted to come over. And she said there was too many media people there, so we left it at that.
KING: What was her reaction to the verdict?
FREY: Well, she did not make any comments. I could tell she was quite sorrowful, I could hear tears in her voice, but other than that, there was no comment.
KING: Did you know Scott?
FREY: Not at all, sir.
KING: When you heard this whole story, how did you react, Ron, when you learned that your daughter was involved?
FREY: Well, it just kept growing and growing and taking us by surprise. It absorbed us for two years. I would say that's how the majority of our time was spent, thinking about the case, and actually on my end, trying to help prosecution.
KING: Do you think that your daughter helped in this -- by that, I mean, do you think she was a significant part of the case?
FREY: Well, I think when she went to court, the case turned around. Her tapes exposed Scott for what he is really like, and the fact he confessed on the tapes to her, when he said everything you had guessed is right, I think the jury -- I know the jury from their verdict, believed it. And I think her testimony turned it around, turned the case around.
KING: How angry as a father are you at him?
FREY: In the beginning, I couldn't deal with it. But I didn't want my life ruined with anger. So I did as Amber, I prayed that -- to give forgiveness. And I couldn't live with anger every day. It would be too difficult for me or my family to do.
KING: Do you have an opinion on the death penalty?
FREY: Well, I have an opinion. I wish Mr. Scott Peterson would tell how he killed Laci, and I hope the court would show mercy on him then.
KING: What about your daughter's future? What is she planning? What's happening with Amber?
FREY: You know, she's done her civic duty. She doesn't talk about the case, reflect on anything. Doesn't make any comments. I don't know what her future's going to be now. Don't know. She has not commented.
KING: Ron, thank you for joining us. I appreciate you giving us the time.
FREY: Thank you, sir.
KING: Ron Frey, the father reacting in a very interesting fashion to the results today in Redwood City.
Let's reintroduce the panel and then we'll discuss the penalty phase. Chuck Smith is in Redwood City, former San Mateo County prosecutor, now in private practice. Trent Copeland is with us in Los Angeles, criminal defense attorney, he was there for closing arguments. Nancy Grace, Court TV anchor, former prosecutor, on top from the get-go, and there this whole past week. Chris Pixley, the noted defense attorney is with us from Atlanta. Dr. Henry Lee is the renowned forensic expert and crime scene investigator. His newest book, by the way, is "Cracking More Cases: The Forensic Science of Solving Crimes." In Redwood City is Ted Rowlands, CNN correspondent covering this case from the start, and had one of the few on-camera interviews with the now guilty Scott Peterson. And also in Redwood City is Richard Cole, covering the Peterson case for "The Daily News Group."
Chuck, the penalty phase. What happens?
SMITH: Well, it's a separate trial. It's going to start on the 22nd. The attorneys have next week off to get ready for it.
And the prosecution is allowed to present aggravating evidence to convince the jury to put him to death. The defense is allowed to put on mitigating evidence.
What it will be specifically in this case is this: The prosecution is going to put on the family members of Laci, to talk about the magnitude of their loss. You can imagine how emotional this is going to be. There will not be a dry eye in the courtroom. The defense is going to put on mitigating evidence. And what I'm certain that's going to be are his parents and his family members, truly, literally saying to that jury, please don't kill Scott.
We'll hear about his childhood, his upbringing, high school, but their message will be, and they will state it directly, please don't kill Scott. There won't be a dry eye in the courtroom during that either.
Then the prosecutor will argue for death, the ultimate penalty, and the reasons why. Mark Geragos will argue why his client should not be killed. There's nothing more dramatic or more important that happens in any courtroom anywhere.
KING: Trent, do both sides cross-examine the emotional witnesses?
COPELAND: It depends if they can gain anything from it, Larry. And there's one other thing...
KING: If you were the defense attorney, would you ask the Petersons if they want Scott to die?
COPELAND: Only if I knew the answer, Larry, and it's a very difficult question. Because remember, for a long period of time, Scott Peterson was a member of the Rocha family. And they regarded him as their son. And obviously, he was...
KING: What did you want to add, though?
COPELAND: Obviously he was the father of their grandson. I was going to also say, and Chuck understands this, there will also be a lingering doubt instruction that the defense will offer to the prosecution -- will offer to the jury. And that is if you have a lingering doubt as to Scott Peterson's guilt -- obviously they have concluded beyond a reasonable doubt -- that alone legally necessitates that they not give him death.
KING: And you need to get a unanimous decision.
COPELAND: It has to be unanimous.
KING: Nancy Grace, how do you -- how do those kind of things go generally? It can't be -- I don't want to use the word fun. It can't be exciting for either side, right? This is sad times?
GRACE: No. No. Neither side, as they sat in the courtroom today, expressed any joy, any jubilation. When the Rochas got up to leave, their faces were like stone. And I can tell you firsthand, being a prosecutor and a victim of violent crime, everybody's house is full of heartbreak tonight. I think it's just a relief for the Rochas that at least this portion is over. But regarding the penalty phase, I predict Geragos will also handle the penalty phase. And he'll put on one heck of a dog and pony show. You will hear everything, Larry, from the day Scott Peterson was born to the day he was christened, his kindergarten graduation...
KING: Why is that bad?
GRACE: ... all the way -- I would like to finish.
KING: Oh. GRACE: All the way through to until he had his golf scholarship to college. There's nothing bad about. You asked what's going to happen? I'm telling you what's going to happen.
And then Laci's family will come back with very much the same.
KING: Do you have an opinion on the death penalty with regard to this case?
GRACE: Yes, I do, Larry. I wish there wasn't such a need for that in our justice system. But I think that is an alternative that should be given to a jury. And if a man convicted of murdering his pregnant wife and baby is not a death penalty case, I don't know what is.
KING: Chris Pixley, what are your thoughts on penalty phase here?
PIXLEY: First of all, I'm morally opposed to the death penalty. And I think that there are a lot of people in this country are. There are very few states that still allow it, and we're moving away from it, even while the Supreme Court of the United States certainly doesn't make decisions on this...
GRACE: Forty-eight states have it.
PIXLEY: ... jurisprudence -- the jurisprudence in this area, Nancy, is moving away from it, and I understand that only the states have it, but I appreciate that lesson in the law.
The bottom line is, we spend far too much time talking about the right and wrong of it in particular cases rather than looking at the track record of the death penalty overall. It's a horrendous track record. It's why outgoing, now former Illinois governor George Ryan commuted the death sentences of all death row inmates a year and half ago. And said that this system is replete with error.
Again and again we find it. And that's why we have project all over America, with wonderful attorneys committed to finding the truth in death penalty cases where you have death row inmates awaiting the worst possible punishment.
So, no, I think that there's a strong argument against it. I think ultimately in this case, again with a second degree murder conviction with respect to Conner, I just can't see the jury doing it.
KING: I have to take a break. But Trent, you wanted to add something.
COPELAND: Very quickly, Larry. This was an incalculably horrific crime, obviously. But when you look at the case of Andrea Yates, who killed her children, Susan Smith, who also killed her children, neither of whom received the death penalty. It's hard to imagine where the parallels lie for Scott Peterson. If he's sentenced to death, those are not. Again,both parents, all parents, all who murdered their children. KING: A psychiatric question.
COPELAND: Psychiatric question with respect to Miss Yates, but Susan Smith, again, just like Scott Peterson, it was presumed that she wanted to kill her children so she could also be with her lover. And it's a very difficult case.
KING: We'll take a break and be back with more. Don't go away.
KING: We're going to include a few phone calls.
Woodbridge, Virginia, hello.
CALLER: Hello, Larry.
CALLER: Thank you for taking my call.
CALLER: My question is for the panel. First, my heart goes out to both families. My question is, has anyone heard from Mark Geragos. He was so flamboyant throughout this trial, and now you would think the most important day of his client's life and he doesn't show up, I was just wonder if anyone had heard from him?
SMITH: No. And he's under the gag order, as well. So even if we did hear from him, he wouldn't be able to say anything.
But we shouldn't be too hard on Mark Geragos. Quite frankly, in taking of a verdict, there's nothing that the attorney can do. You sit there and listen. It's the most hopeless situation in the world. It's not unusual that the trial attorney, the chief trial attorney is not there, because he or she has moved on and had other commitments. We shouldn't be too hard on him?
KING: Chris, you want to say something?
PIXLEY: I agree with Chuck. We shouldn't be too hard on him. I spoke with members of Peterson's extended family today that aren't under the gag order. And there is a reason why Mark was missing. There's a reason why Lee Peterson was gone.
This was the second day of deliberations with this reconstituted jury. And we also knew today that the deliberations were only going to go to 1:00. So, it was an educated guess, maybe you can criticize it after the fact, but the belief was that there would not be a verdict today, that it was too short a day. And that was why Mark wasn't present as well as Lee Peterson.
KING: Nashville, hello. CALLER: Hello, Larry and Chris. Will Scott testify at this next penalty phase?
KING: Does he, Nancy? Does he have to, or is it his choice?
GRACE: No, it's definitely his choice. And he's really between a rock and hard spot on this one, Larry. Because, he may want to get up in front of the jury and beg for his life and make them like him. And I've seen people do that in death penalty cases.
But the reality is, he'll be in a position of basically having to admit, yes, you're right, I did do it, but this is why you should spare my life. That will really give him a hard time on appeal.
So, he has got a choice, either ruin his chances on appeal, or make a pitch to this jury. And regarding Mark Geragos not being here. Larry, he is paid to be here. I don't know why everybody is going easy on Geragos tonight. You know, he got paid through the nose for this. He just bought a building for 1.75 million bucks around the corner. He should have been here.
KING: Maybe another jury paid him where he should be in Miami, in which he had to make a decision...
GRACE: Well, he was not in Miami.
COLE: I can tell you where he was and what he was doing?
KING: Where was he.
COLE: He was in the court in Los Angeles in the morning. And in the afternoon he was in his office. And had a mitigation specialist on the way over in the afternoon, mitigation being that that's the defense side of the penalty case.
So, he's already started working on the -- on his defense. I don't know if he or Pat Harris will do the defense on the death penalty part, but they're already starting.
KING: Can Scott Peterson take the stand, say I didn't do it, please don't kill me. And then can the prosecution get into evidence the case, or is that already history?
COPELAND: That's already history.
KING: So, he can take the stand and say, look, I didn't do this. And you're going to make a big mistake if you kill me.
COPELAND: Well, he can. But effectively, he doesn't have a lot of credibility. Remember, this jury has seen Scott Peterson for a liar. And that's without dispute. So, I don't really think Scott Peterson is going to take the stand, one. And if he does take the stand, I think he'll have to acknowledge some degree of culpability.
KING: Which as Nancy said, wipes out appeals.
Marshills, North Carolina, hello.
CALLER: Hi, Larry. Thank you for taking my call.
CALLER: I have a question for Nancy. Nancy, do you think it's ethical to convict someone on the air before hearing all the evidence, especially with your celebrity status? And my other question.
KING: Go ahead, Nancy.
GRACE: Thank you for the compliment regarding celebrity. People are not convicted on the air. They're convicted in the courtroom. And ma'am, let me assure you, right here on Larry's show, we interviewed the Rochas and the Petersons together one other night. And when I walked out of that studio, I prayed to God in heaven the last face Laci Peterson saw was not her husband's.
But when I heard the evidence, I believed in the state's case. And correct me if I am wrong, but this is America, and we have a right to free speech. And I said what I believe, and I stick by it and so did the jury.
KING: Do you think it had an effect, as a member of the media like Court TV or any person host in the media, to offer an opinion one way or the other on the verdict?
GRACE: People have been offering their opinions on the verdicts since we first started having jury trials. And believe me, if this jury had been listening to us, there would be a mistrial.
KING: All right. What do you think, Trent, about media coverage? And should we say what we think a trial's going to be when we don't have all -- obviously, no one has all the information.
COPELAND: Unlike political campaigns with networks that try not to call the election in advance in an effort to not discourage people not to vote. We can't affect this jury. And this court went out of its way to sequester this jury, when out of its way to screen this jury to assure they weren't affected by pretrial publicity. I think Mark Geragos will obviously make an effort.
KING: Before they were sequestered.
COPELAND: Before they were sequestered. I think he will make an effort, Larry, to look around and find out whether or not that creates an appellate issue. But, no, I think juries look at us for what we are. That's simply just pundits, prognosticators, many times wrong.
KING: We'll be back with some more few moments and get some final comments from each of our panelists. Don't go away.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Obviously, because of this verdict, you're going to be the subject of much scrutiny from the media. I want to remind you again, you have got to adhere to this strictly, that you are not to discuss this case among yourselves or with any other person or form or express any opinions about this case. You're not to listen to, read or watch any media reports of this trial or discuss it with any representatives of the media or their agents.
So you can go home now. This part of the trial is over.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: OK. About 30 seconds each. Chuck Smith, the judge says the penalty phase is going to go about a week. How does he know?
SMITH: Because he knows that the limits of the evidence, which is why I'm so confident when I say it's going to be limited to the kinds of emotional things that I'm talking about.
KING: And what do you think is going to happen, Chuck?
SMITH: I think Trent hits the nail on the head when he talks about this concept of lingering doubt. The jury was sure enough to convict him, they are not sure enough to give him the ultimate penalty. I think he'll get life without the possibility of parole.
COPELAND: You know, I agree with my very good friend Chuck and he and I have talked about this case on and off the air and I just don't think there's any possibility that this jury is going to give Peterson life. And I think, finally, very quickly, Larry, he benefits not unlike Lee Boyd Malvo in the snipe case. He benefits from this penalty phase taking place near the Thanksgiving holiday. Lee Boyd Malvo last year you'll recall, he had his penalty phase over Christmas and most people observed that he probably benefited as a result of that.
KING: Nancy, what do you think is going to happen?
GRACE: I think that Laci got the death penalty and that little baby Conner got the death penalty and I think the jury will strongly consider it for Scott Peterson.
KING: Are you saying he'll get it or he might get it?
GRACE: I think there's a very strong possibility that Scott Peterson will get the death penalty and then sit on death row for the next 20 years.
KING: Because California I think averages less than one a year with many, many people on death row. Chris Pixley, what do you think is going to happen?
PIXLEY: I think, again, this jury cannot -- we've talked about it before -- cannot right now tell you what happened to Laci Peterson. There is the lingering doubt. It is a major cause of concern for the prosecution as they ask for the death penalty. I would hope that they come out with guns ablazing, talking about all the horrible things that Scott Peterson did because again they've never demonstrated what exactly Scott Peterson did here. And one other comment, if I could make it, Larry. It's just that the end of the day, there's a lot of second-guessing going on and a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking, and I would hate for the families to be asking themselves right now, should Scott have taken the stand? Should we have done something differently? I think they got a wonderful defense. There has been criticism all around on the prosecution and the defense but they did a great job and it is what it is now.
KING: Dr. Lee, what do you think is going to happen?
LEE: I don't think the jury going to give him death penalty. I want to use the remaining time to defend Mark Geragos to get paid. I'm sure he spends so much time and so many hours. Whatever compensate is very little. I know myself and probably we got paid about one-hundredth of whatever the time Mark spent on this case.
KING: Well said. Ted Rowlands, what do you think is going to happen?
ROWLANDS: I think the fact that the jury wavered and came back with murder two on Conner gives an indication that they may think this through and come back with a no verdict, in terms of the death penalty. But I know that, as has been mentioned, it's not going to be any fun for anybody. It won't be any fun to cover, it will be very emotional and not looking forward to it.
KING: Richard Cole, quickly.
COLE: Only takes one juror. We don't have to talk about this jury collectively.
KING: Richard, the prosecution doesn't approach this with vehemence, do they?
COLE: We don't know it until we see it.
And let me play the hawk here a little bit...
KING: You have 30 seconds.
COLE: When that jury came back with a first-degree murder verdict, I think they sent a signal. I think they're very inclined to finish the job. I was shocked by the verdict. I think if they've gone this far, they are going to go to the next step. Now will they get 12 -- remember they need all 12 votes. It's possible they won't get all 12 votes. But I think that first-degree murder verdict should send a shudder through Scott Peterson. They could have come back with two second-degree murder verdicts, virtually had the same thing as life without parole. They didn't choose to do that and I don't think that's a good sign.
KING: Thank you all very much. It's been some kind of day. It's going to be a great night tomorrow. What a show we have. We'll tell you about it right after this.
KING: Tomorrow night we're going to repeat a historic hour on LARRY KING LIVE. It was our 10th anniversary, it was 1995 and the guests were Rabin, Arafat and Hussein coming to us all from the Middle East. All on together. It was historic. We'll repeat it tomorrow night.
Speaking of historic, it's historic every night on "NEWSNIGHT," isn't it? Every night is embedded, belongs in the archives. Tonight, too, as once again Aaron Brown puts "NEWSNIGHT" into the Smithsonian. Mr. Brown.
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