Scott Peterson Convicted of Murdering Wife and Son

Scott Peterson Convicted of Murdering Wife (AP)

Scott Peterson was convicted Friday of murdering his pregnant wife and dumping her body in San Francisco Bay in what prosecutors in the made-for-cable-TV case portrayed as a cold-blooded attempt to escape marriage and fatherhood for the bachelor life. Peterson, 32, could get the death penalty. He was convicted of one count of first-degree murder for killing his wife, Laci, and one count of second-degree murder in the death of the son she was carrying.

Family members intensely waited in the courtroom and hundreds of onlookers gathered outside to hear word of the verdict. The verdict came after a five-month trial that was an endless source of fascination to the tabloids, People magazine and the cable networks with its story of an attractive, radiant young couple awaiting the birth of their first child, a cheating husband, and a slaying for which prosecutors had no eyewitnesses, no weapon, not even a cause of death. The verdict followed a tumultuous seven days of deliberations in which two jurors were removed for unspecified reasons and the judge twice told the panel to start over.

The jury of six men and six women were told to return Nov. 22 to begin hearing testimony on whether Peterson should die by lethal injection or get life in prison without parole.

Laci Peterson, a 27-year-old substitute teacher, was eight months pregnant when she vanished around Christmas Eve 2002. Four months later, her headless body and the remains of her fetus were discovered along the shoreline about 90 miles from the couple’s Modesto home – not far from where her husband claims he was fishing alone the day of her disappearance.

I’m one of the relative few people who don’t much follow these high profile trials. It’s never been clear to me why the murder of one person I never met by someone else I’ve never met is any more noteworthy than any of the thousands of other murders that are committed each year. For whatever reason, though, this trial has gripped the nation for months.


FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, Popular Culture, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Ret Automoton says:

    Now if I can just figure out why this took so long. But maybe it’s no big deal afterall. I guess we can move forward with the 37 unresolved homicides in Iraq, now that we have some idea of what justice looks like. I’m wondering if rumsfeld will like his orange jumpsuit as much as everyone else. It makes me warm and fuzzy just thinking about it. But then again this would have to be a practicing democracy for that to happen. I wonder if it would have happened at all if it was anyhing but a plutocratic oligarchy that is currently headed by the most uninspiring excuse for a half wit maybe ever. I think I will chalk that one up to “god working in mysterious ways”

  2. LJD says:


    A lie told often enough becomes the truth.

    -Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

    Or NOT.

  3. LJD says:

    It is not for us to judge a criminal case. None of us are privy to the testimony. Of course emotions in the general public are inflamed by the media- kind of like the Iraq fallacy.

  4. political says:

    I’ve never understood why this is even a major story. Who cares about one murder out of thousands.

  5. JW says:

    People care because Scott Peterson is charged with a DOUBLE HOMICIDE–the death of his pregnant wife and fetal son. That’s how California hopes to get the death penalty imposed on him. If California is successful in convincing the jury that Peterson should be convicted of the murder of a fetus as a separate crime, the pro-abortion movement will have a brand=new legal precedent to think about. It’s not just sensationalism, guys–it’s serious business for the professional abortion-lobby.

  6. Attila Girl says:

    This story fascinates people because most of us are (rightly) creeped out by the fact that most murders are committed by people’s own near and dear.

    And it fascinates in the same way the Ted Bundy murders did: Peterson just does not “look like a murderer.”

    I don’t think the “Conner” issue is as big as most people make it out to be: most states have an arbitrary number of weeks after which a fetus is considered viable enough for killing him/her/it to be a homicide. Society sees the contradiction between this and Roe v. Wade, and lives with it. (Yes, this gives women a lot more control over when a life may be brought into the world. OTOH, women often have inordinate responsibility for caring for children once they are here.)

    The fact is, the Peterson case has mostly been a screaming bore. I’m a crime buff, and I lost interest after a few months. I could understand it if these people were celebrities, but they are not. The sad fact is, many men kill their wives.