We, the Jury: Deciding the Scott Peterson Case
THE JURY is a striking and courageous book, compiled by seven of
the jurors in the Scott Peterson case with the help of two
newsmen/writers. Much of the material will be familiar to those who
followed the story but had to wait until now to get a sense of how
the jury came to its conclusions and the impact this experience has
had on their lives.
The form of the narrative is akin to a conversation that flows back
and forth in time. The jurors talk about days overflowed with
emotion, heartfelt pain and exhaustion. To keep things in context
and fully understand what they saw and heard, readers get a capsule
view of the story as it unfolded in real life and in the
From the first call for help, the case took on a life of its own.
Was it Laci's gorgeous smile that people fell in love with? Was it
her girl-next-door appearance? Was it that she was eight months
pregnant with a baby boy? Whatever the reason, Laci touched the
hearts of millions of people around the world and became everyone's
daughter, wife, sister, friend and teacher.
The jury heard that Scott Peterson remained aloof and seemingly
untouched by his pregnant wife Laci's disappearance. At first he
refused to speak to the media, then suddenly he was on television
trying to convince the world he was devastated by his loss. He
often used the past tense when referring to Laci and Conner, even
though their bodies had not been found yet. His arrogant, glib
persona and detached demeanor did nothing to mitigate the negative
impression he projected to all.
A single mother, Amber Frey, came forward to say that she was Scott
Peterson's girlfriend. Amber agreed to cooperate with the police
and tape her conversations with "lover boy." She became the
lynchpin in the case against Peterson. For many of the jurors, this
testimony and the tapes were damning pieces of evidence.
Nobody could predict the twists and turns that would be laid bare
in the courtroom. As 12 jurors and four alternates sat day after
day listening to the evidence, looking at horrific pictures and
hearing every macabre and heartbreaking detail of what happened to
Laci, they could not have imagined how this experience would change
them and bond them forever.
"When we walked into the deliberations there was no book for how to
--- Greg Beratlis, Juror No. 1
"When John Guinasso [Juror No. 8] entered the
cramped…deliberations room…he could feel a sense of
relief. Little did he know that the process of deliberations would
plunge the jurors into an even more stressful period" than did "the
trial which had consumed five and a half months."
All of them needed to "stretch" and get to know each other, but
they did not use their real names. Greg Jackson replaced the first
person booted off the panel; that individual was dismissed because
of his inability to follow rules. Jackson's medical and legal
background was the basis for his becoming "the obvious choice to be
foreman. Jackson accepted the role but would soon be embroiled in a
series of disputes that would threaten the outcome of the trial."
Not a good sign.
Jackson was the next person to be excused from further deliberating
with his fellows. When he was replaced, the entire process began
again. Through the continuing grueling days and sleepless nights,
one more juror would be dismissed. The chaos and stress of any jury
deliberations are difficult under the best of circumstances, but
these people felt they had been thrown curve after curve. After
all, this was a death penalty case, and each time a juror was
replaced they had to go back to the very beginning to bring that
person up to date. They were exhausted, frustrated, angry, sad,
agreeable, disagreeable and not allowed to watch television or read
Although they felt like prisoners, the jurors tell readers they
took very seriously their oath to give Peterson the fairest trial
they could. They were always aware of the fact that they were
death-qualified, and each one needed to know that he/she was being
very careful in his/her deliberations.
Two years have passed since Scott Peterson was found guilty on all
charges and sent to San Quentin's death row. But the brutality
perpetrated on two young lives and the breadth of his lies have
created another small group of victims: those 12 jurors. While
everyone touched by these murders and the subsequent trial will
never be the same, the jury members say they will carry the scars
of their five-month service forever.
As the book concludes, readers learn the toll this experience has
taken on the jurors who "continued to be victims of the jury
system. Some suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and have
flashbacks which is a symptom of PTSD, some have nightmares, some
have received death threats and some have physical pain."
Currently, San Mateo County does not offer jurors any psychological
help following a trial. Thus, this brave group hopes that sharing
their experiences will open up a discussion about what jurors
suffer in the worst high-profile cases.
The "jurors have no regrets about what they faced and their
decision to convict Peterson and send him…to death row.
Despite argument, disagreements and philosophical differences, they
concluded unequivocally that [he] committed a double murder and
deserved the ultimate punishment." In the end, after examining and
analyzing "the evidence, they came to the same conclusion that the
prosecution did. He did it."
Reviewed by Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum on January 24, 2011