- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 30, 2004

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. (AP) — The penalty phase of Scott Peterson’s murder trial opened yesterday with prosecutors saying the slaying of his pregnant wife left her family with “a hole in their hearts that can never be repaired.”

“When the defendant dumped the bodies of his wife and unborn son into the [San Francisco Bay], those ripples spread out and they touched many, many lives,” prosecutor Dave Harris said.

The jury that convicted Peterson on Nov. 12 of murdering his wife, Laci, and the fetus she was carrying will decide whether the 32-year-old former fertilizer salesman should be executed or get life in prison without parole.

Mr. Harris told jurors that they would hear from Mrs. Peterson’s family about her dreams, how much joy she brought to their lives and how much she was looking forward to being a mother.

“Based on what you’re going to hear on the circumstances of this crime, the only appropriate and just punishment is death,” he said.

Peterson’s attorneys were scheduled to make their opening statements after the prosecution concludes calling witnesses.

The proceedings yesterday were delayed briefly as attorneys for both sides met with the judge behind closed doors to talk about a bartender’s statement that he overheard one of the jurors discussing the case, a defense source told the Associated Press.

Judge Alfred A. Delucchi did not excuse any jurors before the panel was called into court for the start of the penalty phase.

Judge Delucchi said the delay was for a “402 hearing,” which legal experts said could be used to hear concerns about possible juror misconduct.

Courthouse administrator Peggy Thompson said the matter had been resolved. She declined to discuss the details, citing the judge’s gag order.

On Monday, the California Supreme Court rejected a request by Peterson’s attorneys to delay the penalty phase and seat a new jury in another county. Defense attorney Mark Geragos had argued that the jury that found Peterson guilty had been tainted by the public reaction to the verdict.

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