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Peterson sentenced to death for wife's slaying

Woman's family explodes at husband, Peterson family

Scott Peterson is shown Wednesday in this courtroom sketch.
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A California judge sentences Scott Peterson to die.
Scott Peterson
Capital Punishment
Crime, Law and Justice

REDWOOD CITY, California (CNN) -- A California judge Wednesday sentenced Scott Peterson to die by lethal injection for killing his pregnant wife and her fetus, calling the deaths "cruel, uncaring, heartless and callous."

San Mateo Superior Court Judge Alfred Delucchi noted that Peterson's unborn child never had a chance to draw a breath.

Delucchi made the remarks as he denied an automatic motion to mitigate Peterson's sentence. The judge also denied a motion filed by defense attorney Mark Geragos seeking a new trial for Peterson.

Wednesday's sentencing included dramatic moments from the slain woman's family, who vented their anger at Scott Peterson and his family.

"You're evil and still have the readiness to commit evil," Laci's brother, Brent Rocha, told Scott Peterson. "How does it feel to be a baby killer?"

Rocha said that every time he came to court, "I think that my sister's head is probably rolling around in the bottom of the bay."

He told Peterson he had bought a gun, but said he was glad he had not killed the defendant, saying now Peterson would have to wait for death. He called Peterson "arrogant" and said it was time for him to face reality for his actions.

Other family members, such as Laci's father and stepfather, used profanity in addressing Peterson, resulting in an admonishment from Delucchi.

After Peterson's father, Lee, jumped up and began yelling at Brent Rocha, calling him a liar, Delucchi threatened to have Lee Peterson removed from the courtroom. Lee Peterson walked out, followed shortly thereafter by Peterson's mother, Jackie.

"I never liked you," Dennis Rocha, Laci's father, told Peterson. "You're going to burn in hell."

Laci's mother, Sharon Rocha, told Peterson he was "stupid, stupid to think you could get away with murder," and told him he had "no love, no feelings, no heart, no soul."

"You're selfish, heartless and self-centered," she said. "You're a coward and an evil murderer. ... We had to bury her without arms to hold Conner and (without) a head to look at him."

Wearing a suit, but handcuffed, with a sheriff's deputy hovering over him, Peterson shook his head during Brent Rocha's remarks, but stared straight ahead as other family members spoke. He did not speak on his own behalf before being sentenced.

Legal steps remain

After Wednesday's sentencing, jurors in Peterson's trial expressed satisfaction with the judge's decision and called for closure.

"The judge went with our recommendation," added jury foreman Steve Cardosi, "so justice has been done." (Reactions to Wednesday's sentencing)

Members of Laci's family, Modesto police and prosecutors have scheduled a news conference Thursday on the case, saying they decided to do so after being deluged with requests for interviews.

Peterson, 32, was convicted November 12 of killing his wife, Laci, who was eight months pregnant at the time, and dumping her body in San Francisco Bay. (Peterson found guilty)

The same jury that convicted him recommended a month later that he receive the death penalty. (Jury recommendation)

Laci Peterson was reported missing from the couple's Modesto home on Christmas Eve 2002. Her torso and the fetus washed up on shore in April 2003.

Officials said Peterson would be transferred within 48 hours from the San Mateo County Jail in Redwood City to California's San Quentin State Prison, where he will become the 641st person on the state's death row.

But his execution is a number of legal steps -- and more than likely a number of years -- away, and he is actually more likely to die of natural causes than be executed.

His death sentence carries a mandatory appeal, and his attorneys may file additional appeals, meaning the case could drag on for years.

In addition, despite the large number of inmates on death row, California has executed only 12 people since its death penalty was reinstated in 1978. The most recent execution in California, that of Donald Beardslee, was carried out in January after the inmate spent more than 20 years in prison.

For security reasons, Peterson will receive a special escort to San Quentin, officials said.

Delucchi also ordered Peterson to pay $10,000 in restitution for Laci's funeral expenses.

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