- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 3, 2004

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. (AP) — Jurors began deliberating the fate of Scott Peterson yesterday, weighing whether he murdered his pregnant wife and dumped her body in San Francisco Bay or was merely a straying husband who was framed.

The deliberations began after closing arguments ended and jury instructions were presented.

“You can’t base a reasonable doubt on an unreasonable interpretation of the evidence,” prosecutor Rick Distaso told jurors in a brief rebuttal to the defense’s closing argument. “It’s just not reasonable that anyone put that body in the Bay to frame him. If it’s not reasonable, you must reject it.”

Winding up their case earlier in the day, defense lawyers had lashed out at the notion that Laci Peterson’s fetus died in her womb. Lawyer Mark Geragos reminded jurors that authorities never found the placenta or the fetus’ umbilical cord, leaving little evidence to determine whether the male fetus was born alive and killed later.

If the fetus died later, Mr. Geragos said, “it’s not Scott Peterson who did that.”

Prosecutors contend that Mr. Peterson strangled or smothered his wife on Dec. 23 or 24, 2002, then dumped her weighted body into the Bay. Her body and that of the fetus washed ashore in April 2003. Mr. Geragos contends that someone else abducted and killed the Modesto woman.

Mr. Peterson is charged with two counts of first-degree murder and could get the death penalty. The judge also allowed jurors to consider second-degree murder, which does not require evidence of premeditation and carries 15 years to life in prison.

The trial began with jury selection in March, and opening statements were made in June.

Mr. Geragos has argued the fetus was born well after Mrs. Peterson vanished, proving his client couldn’t be the killer given the intense police surveillance of him in the days and weeks after his wife disappeared.

A prosecution witness testified the fetus likely died around the same time Mrs. Peterson was reported missing. A defense witness countered that the fetus could have been born weeks later.

“Was that baby wrapped in some kind of plastic? … We don’t know,” Mr. Geragos told jurors. “The fact of the matter is, though, that that baby looks like it had something wrapped around it to protect it.”

Prosecutors have argued the fetus wasn’t as severely decomposed as Mrs. Peterson’s body because it had remained in her womb for months before being expelled from her decaying body.

On Tuesday, Mr. Geragos conceded the former fertilizer salesman, who was having an affair at the time Mrs. Peterson vanished, is a liar and a cheat, but said he shouldn’t be convicted of murder.

“You’re not supposed to just decide this case on whether or not you like Scott Peterson,” he told jurors.

Mr. Geragos accused prosecutors of waffling on their theory of the crime.

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