While the law says "presumed innocent," majorities of Americans have already decided that Scott Peterson and Eric Rudolph (search) are guilty as charged. Both men are accused of murder and, if found guilty, may face the death penalty — a punishment favored by a solid majority of Americans in the case of premeditated murder.

Many Americans think Scott Peterson (search) was involved in the murder of his pregnant wife Laci, but fewer think so today than did a month ago. In the latest FOX News poll, conducted June 3-4 by Opinion Dynamics Corporation, 58 percent of the public think Peterson was involved, down from 67 percent in early May.

Similarly, the number saying he was “definitely involved” has dropped 12 percentage points (31 percent now, compared to 43 percent last month). Only five percent think he was not involved (four percent “probably” and one percent “definitely” not involved).

In addition, over a third of the public (37 percent) are withholding judgment today, up from 30 percent of respondents who said they were unsure of Scott’s involvement in early May.

Despite the large amounts of media attention to the case, a plurality of the public (47 percent) thinks Peterson will get a fair trial. Thirty-six percent say Peterson will not be able to get a fair trial and 17 percent are unsure.

In another case that has captured the attention of the country, 62 percent of Americans think Eric Rudolph is guilty of involvement in the various bombings he has been charged with committing. Thirty-three percent think Rudolph was “definitely involved” and 29 percent “probably involved” in the four Georgia and Alabama bombings, including the 1996 Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta.

Those living in the South Atlantic region of the country, which includes Georgia, the site of the Olympic bombing, as well as North Carolina where Rudolph was discovered, are the most likely to believe he was involved (74 percent).

Rudolph’s clean and healthy appearance when captured has led to speculation that he might have received aid from local people. In the case that Rudolph, a federal fugitive, was being helped, 74 percent of Americans believe those individuals should be charged as accessories to his crimes. Fourteen percent think such people should not be charged and 12 percent are unsure.

The Death Penalty as Punishment
In general, 69 percent say they favor the death penalty for persons convicted of premeditated murder and 23 percent oppose the punishment. Men are more likely than women to favor the death penalty (74 percent and 64 percent respectively), as are whites (70 percent) in comparison with nonwhites (59 percent).

However, the largest difference is found in the gap between the major political parties. Fully 81 percent of Republicans favor the death penalty compared to only 58 percent of Democrats.

Polling was conducted by telephone June 3-4, 2003 in the evenings. The sample is 900 registered voters nationwide with a margin of error of ±3 percentage points. 

1. Do you favor or oppose the death penalty for persons convicted of premeditated murder?
SCALE: 1. Favor 2. Oppose 3. (Not sure)

Favor Oppose (NS)
3-4 Jun 03 69% 23 8
6-7 Jun 01 68% 22 10
18-19 Apr 01 66% 23 11
28-29 Jun 00 68% 24 8
9-10 Feb 00 67% 22 11
7-8 Jan 98 74% 18 8
25-26 Jun 97 73% 18 9
30 Apr-1 May 97 76% 17 7

2. Based on what you know right now, do you think Scott Peterson was involved in the murder of his pregnant wife Laci? Is that definitely (involved/not involved) or probably (involved/not involved)
SCALE: 1. Yes, definitely involved 2. Yes, probably involved 3. No, probably not involved 4. No, definitely not involved 5. (Not sure)

  Yes, definitely Yes, probably No, probably not No, definitely not (NS)
3-4 Jun 03 31% 27 4 1 37
6-7 May 03 43% 24 2 1 30
22-23 Apr 03 43% 26 2 - 29

3. Given the amount of media coverage, do you think Scott Peterson will be able to get a fair trial?

1. Yes 47%
2. No 36
3. (Not sure) 17

4. Based on what you know right now, do you think Eric Rudolph was involved in the Atlanta Olympic Park and other bombings he’s charged with committing? Is that definitely (involved/not involved) or probably (involved/not involved)?

1. Yes, definitely involved 33%
2. Yes, probably involved 29
3. No, probably not involved 2
4. No, definitely not involved 1
5. (Not sure) 35

5. If an investigation discovers that people helped suspected bomber Eric Rudolph during the time he was on the run as a fugitive, do you think those people should be charged as accessories to his crimes?

1. Yes 74%
2. No 14
3. (Not sure) 12