The Scott Peterson Jurors: Meet the Jurors

The Story Unfolds

Twenty-eight-year-old Laci Peterson was eight months pregnant when she went missing on Christmas Eve of 2002. News reports kept her community, and ultimately the nation, apprised as the story unfolded.

Three days after her disappearance, her parents appeared at a press conference.

"Whoever has her, please let her go. Bring her back to us," said her mother.

"We love her so much," said her father. Dissolving in tears he added, "Please give us our daughter. Let us have her back!"

The search for Laci continued, turning up nothing day after day. Two weeks in, the police began calling her disappearance a case of foul play.

As the Modesto police examined every possibility, Laci's husband, Scott, turned over a timed receipt from the marina where he said he went fishing by himself. Reports surfaced that Scott was having an affair and had taken out a $250,000 life insurance policy on his wife. Police refused to comment.

Then came a break in the case.

 

"An agonizing wait for Laci Peterson's family tonight as forensic investigators try to figure out if a body found in Northern California is the missing pregnant woman," said one news report.

"The torso is believed to be that of a female, badly decomposed and partially clothed in maternity wear," said another.

Finally, a DNA test revealed the horrific truth. The bodies of the woman and baby that had washed up in the San Francisco Bay were those of Laci Peterson and Conner, the child she was carrying. Police issued a warrant for Scott Peterson. He was eventually arrested in La Jolla, California, sporting a new hair color, new goatee, and carrying over $10,000 in cash.

On an afternoon days later, Scott entered his plea in a Modesto courtroom.

"Not guilty," he told the judge. "I deny it."

Jury selection took three months and produced a 12-member panel that was predominantly white and evenly divided between men and women. Among the jurors were John, Julie, Mike, Richelle, and Greg. They describe their initial impressions of the defendant:

Julie: Scott did not look like a monster at all. He was far from it. Very well dressed. A handsome man.

Mike: In the beginning of the trial, I looked at Scott as a young man almost the same age as my son, who had just suffered the loss of his wife and his child.

John: Scott Peterson's eyes were eerie.

Nearly 18 months after Laci vanished, opening statements began in the Scott Peterson trial.

John: Scott Peterson, as I viewed him, he looked just like the typical all-American boy.

Richelle: Scott stood up and said good morning to everyone. It's, like, the b**** of this man. It was weird."

Among the more damaging evidence presented during the trial were phone calls Scott made to his mistress, Amber Frey. Prosecutors painted Amber as another victim in Scott's web of lies, and police said his affair with her was the motive for the killings. Amber admitted to the affair.
 
"Scott told me he was not married," she said. "When I discovered he was involved in Laci Peterson's disappearance case, I immediately contacted the Modesto police department."
 
"When I listened to the tapes, I just realized that Scott's a habitual liar. He lied for no apparent reason," said juror Greg.
 
"My opinion of Scott definitely changed during the trial," adds juror Julie. "He was a big liar. He was a complete jerk, but that still doesn't make him a murderer, and I had to keep that always in my mind."
 
Juror Richelle says, "When I think of those autopsy photos, I think of the beautiful smile that Laci had, the vibrancy that was in her."
 
"I never saw emotion out of Scott," comments juror Greg.

The double-murder trial ended abruptly when lawyers on both sides decided not to call any further witnesses to the stand. Before beginning deliberations, the jury received instructions from the judge for over an hour, including the command that they not be biased against the defendant.

During deliberations, two jurors were dismissed back to back, which led to speculation about chaos in the jury room. One of the jurors dismissed had been the foreman.

A news report from the time said, "And the shockwaves continued when the judge announced the new foreman was juror number six, the firefighter who looked bored throughout the five-month trial and rarely took notes."

"There were times when people would get mad at each other," says Greg. "They'd get pissed off. They'd get up from the table, walk off."

Richelle was alternate number two throughout the trial. When a woman was kicked off, she became a juror in full. "I was just, like, I need to take a minute to process this. I have this man's life in my hands now," she says.

The jury finally emerged from deliberations to issue their verdict, as a crowd which had gathered outside the courthouse listened in.


"We, the jury in the above entitled cause find the defendant Scott Lee Peterson guilty of the crime of murder of Laci Peterson."

The crowd erupted in cheers.

"After we had then given our verdict, we came out and there was cheering, and we were just all taken back by that," says juror Mike. "We were all kind of, 'What is wrong with these people? We just found a young man guilty of the murder of his wife and child, and they're cheering?'"

The verdicts came with special circumstances, which meant Scott could face the death penalty.

"You have a man's life in your hands," says John. "Either it's going to be life, or it's going to be death. And you have to live with your decision the rest of your life."

Despite such trepidations, the jury sentenced Scott to death by lethal injection.

Back in the studio, Dr. Phil asks the jurors if they have any regrets.

"No. I've never looked back on my decision," says John, "and, as time goes on, it even reinforces my decision that much more."


Richelle agrees. "I feel, as time went on, and we learned more about the case, it was more set in stone," she says.

Dr. Phil asks, "As you look back on it, Mike, was there a particular piece of evidence, a particular moment in the process that caused you to say, 'This man did this horrible thing'?"

"Well, Dr. Phil, there was a lot of evidence that we went through," he says, "but probably the one issue that stood out the most was where the bodies were found. The bodies washed up in an area " happenstance " where Scott was fishing. If they had washed up in Lake Tahoe, Stanislaus River, San Francisco Ocean Beach, Milpitas, Scott would probably be a free man today. But they didn't."

Dr. Phil points out that Greg's initial reaction to Scott was that he looked innocent, and Greg agrees. "That was your gut-level reaction when you saw him," says Dr. Phil. "You had trouble seeing him as a killer."

"I looked at him as actually being a victim of the process," says Greg. "I felt that the law enforcement had said, 'This is the guy. We're just going to put all our eggs in this one basket, and we're going after him.' And when they first presented it, that's the way it came across to me."