Jurors in the Scott Peterson double-murder trial were stunned in court Wednesday as they were shown graphic photos of the badly decomposed body of Laci Peterson.
The photos were so grisly that some observers averted their eyes. A female member of the jury rushed to get tissues to help a crying female member of the panel, while another was so visibly upset that her face turned red.
Laci’s mother and stepfather, Sharon Rocha and Ron Grantski, had skipped court this week in Redwood City, Calif., because of the plans to show the photos.
Scott Peterson, 31, who has pleaded not guilty to murdering his wife and unborn son in their Modesto home and then dumping their remains into San Francisco Bay, never looked up from the defense table while the photos were in evidence. His father, Lee, and sister-in-law Janey also looked down too. His mother, Jackie, shielded her closed eyes with a notebook.
Laci’s body, which washed up on shore in April of 2002, was mostly skeletal, with bare ribs jutting out and a spine that was exposed. The body did not have a head, neck, forearms, feet and part of the left leg.
“These are some of the worst autopsy photos I have ever seen,” said Jim Hammer, a former San Francisco prosecutor who is a Bay Area defense attorney.
Dean Johnson, a former San Mateo County criminal prosecutor, said the autopsy photos established an emotional impact of the deaths for the jury to see. “This is not a game,” said Johnson who is now a defense attorney in Redwood City. “This is about two human beings.”
According to the pathologist on the witness stand, Dr. Brian Peterson (no relation to Scott), “The only internal organ that was present was the uterus.” From his examination, the pathologist said the victim’s head, neck and limbs had not been cut away by a tool because the joints were smooth.
Earlier on Wednesday, prosecutors presented their argument that Scott used concrete weights to insure that his wife’s body would remain submerged. Expert witness Robert O’Neill testified that concrete samples from the driveway Scott said he needed to repair did not match the concrete debris from inside Peterson’s home, truck and boat.