Jurors talk about Scott Peterson trial a decade after death sentence

As Monday marked the 10 year anniversary of when Scott Peterson was sentenced to die for killing his 27-year-old pregnant wife Laci, KTVU spoke with two of the jurors on the trial about the decision they made a decade ago.

Laci Peterson was eight months pregnant with their unborn son when she died. Some say Peterson's case is an example of the slow pace of justice in the United States.

Behind the walls of San Quentin Prison's original death row are the state's most notorious inmates. Scott Peterson has lived there now for 10 years.

Prison officials said the 42-year-old's life is pretty monotonous. Every day he walks the yard on the roof. These days he doesn't get much mail.

"I hope he's having a miserable time," said former juror in the Peterson trial Mike Belmessieri. "I hope he's suffering much as I'm sure his wife did."

Back in 2004, Belmessieri and John Guinnaso spent nearly six months at the Hall of Justice in Redwood City as jurors for Peterson's trial.

"It was unbelievable as far as looking at him in the courtroom versus the facts in the case," said Guinnaso. "By physical looks he didn't look like the type of individual that could carry out murder."

The grim murder case captivated the nation. Captured in photos, a beaming Laci Peterson was pregnant with a baby to be named Conner.

She vanished right before Christmas 2002. Months later, the 27-year-old's body and remains of a fetus were found on the shoreline of the San Francisco Bay.

Her husband Scott Peterson was the main suspect after reports of infidelity surfaced. Jurors ultimately saw him as a young man who wanted to be free of a wife and child.

"I believe that had Laci not been pregnant she'd still be alive today," said Belmessieri.

After months of emotional testimony and weeks of deliberations, the jury found Scott Peterson guilty. The judge then agreed with the jury's recommendation that Peterson be put to death by lethal injection.

State law does not allow news organizations to request on camera interviews with prisoners. According to Peterson's automatic appeal to the California Supreme Court filed two years ago, he maintains he's innocent as he did when KTVU interviewed him in 2003.

"I had absolutely nothing to do with her disappearance," said Peterson in 2003.

A decade on death row, the State Attorney General's Office just filed its response to Peterson's appeal in January. It took Peterson eight years to file that appeal.

"I think one of the things it tells us is that these cases are slow to come to justice," said Santa Clara University Law Professor Ellen Kreitzberg.

Kreitzberg studies death penalty cases. She said these cases normally take years since there are not enough qualified and competent lawyers in California to handle them and the state simply doesn't pay enough.

Right now, 749 inmates are currently on death row in California. The last execution was in 2006. According to a death penalty information center report, the state has spent more than $4 billion on the death penalty since 1978. The majority of the dollars are spent on pre-trial and trial costs.

"I think the one thing everybody agrees on in California is that the system is broken and by everyone I mean whether you are for the death penalty or against the death penalty everybody agrees it doesn't work," said Kreitzberg.

Last July, a federal judge ruled California's death penalty procedure is systematically flawed and therefore unconstitutional.

Kreitzberg estimates Peterson will likely sit on death row for at least another 15 years as his appeals go through the state and federal levels.

"I'm a little frustrated because we made the decision and it hasn't been followed through yet," said Guinnaso.

"I think we have to take a look at how our system is built and reconstruct it to where it's a little more efficient than what it is," said Belmessieri.

As these jurors wait, they live with no regrets on handing down the ultimate penalty.

"No I don't have a second thought at all," said Belmessieri. "Every juror on that jury to this day will stand up and tell you we did the right thing."

While it will be closure for them when and if Scott Peterson is executed, they realize it will never be for Laci Peterson's family.

"They lost their daughter forever," said Guinnaso. "I'm sure they will want to be present when it happens but it will not bring their daughter back or their grandson back. They are going to have that heartache for the rest of their lives as long as they are here on this earth."

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