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Just when you thought the Scott Peterson (search) case is over... it isn't.
Next week — Wednesday, March 16 — Peterson will be formally sentenced. The anticipated schedule for that hearing will be this: A hearing on the defendant's 100-plus page motion for a new trial; a public statement by Sharon Rocha and other family members (a victim impact statement in which they essentially address both the defendant and the judge); a statement by Peterson if he wants (basically asking that he not be sentenced to death), and the actual sentence by the judge as to whether it will be life or death. I suppose we could also hear from Peterson family asking for life, and not death, but I am not sure whether that will occur.
The hearing, while forever tragic due to loss of life, should be legally fascinating. Bottom line: Was there a trial mistake and is it big enough — crucial to the verdict — to give Peterson a new trial? No trial is perfect and no one is entitled to a perfect trial, but you do get a new trial if a significant mistake is likely to have had an impact on the actual guilt verdict by the jury.
If Peterson elects to address the judge at the sentencing (he does not have to do so), it will be the first time we hear from him in court. He did not take the witness stand in his own defense. His strategy in addressing the court would be to convince the judge to give him life, rather than death, and at the same time say nothing that would harm his issues on appeal. (In other words, don't expect him to say, "I did it and I am sorry... please sentence me to life because I am taking responsibility!)
The jury's decision for death is a recommendation — it is not binding on the judge. Most expect the judge will follow that recommendation, but trials and criminal courts often have surprises. The judge has gotten to know Peterson from many in chambers conferences throughout the long trial and he may find a reason to spare his life that we have not heard.
And on a different note... Wednesday, I taped an interview with a soldier who, on September 11, 2004, was blown up by mortar in Iraq. He is now a triple amputee — no legs, and his right hand (up to the elbow) is amputated. This young soldier has an amazing attitude. We will air the interview soon, but in the meantime, I thought you might like to see his Web site with pictures. Tell your friends to check out his Web site, too: www.briankolfage.org
KFI Radio's Laura Ingle is covering the Michael Jackson (search) case and sends me rough daily inside notes. I thought you might like to see one of the notes she sent me. It relates to Wednesday:
Subject: Laura notes
Courtroom is packed today. Not an empty seat in the house. Many people are anticipating the arrival of the accuser... The courtroom pass is the hottest ticket in town (Well, I guess its the only ticket here in farmland.)
A Jackson fan is sitting in the courtroom today dressed as Michael Jackson! She's got on a white suit, white armband, white-jeweled vest, hair styled just like his and looks like she's wearing white powder on her face. (She's white). Another fan is also gussied up like Jackson, but not to the extent this one fan is. There are a couple of familiar faces in the public section to me. One is one of the "Devan brothers" — the twin brothers were at the Scott Peterson trial everyday. They were the ones that did their own boat experiment and videotaped it. The other familiar face is Najee Ali, he's an L.A. "community activist" who has gone around holding news conferences to tell Michael Jackson "you are not alone."
As the brother of the accuser is being crossed... he is being caught left and right with conflicting accounts of being at Jackson's home and seeing his brother with Jackson. Mesereau is using grand jury testimony, cop interviews, and now the rebuttal video to make his points. Mesereau also has shown a video made at Neverland called "Neverland Channel Video." Looks like a public access sort of thing, starring the brother of the accuser. Shows him excitedly interviewing an elephant trainer, other children and even his own brother on the grounds of Neverland. He seems like a kid in a candy store, he's so stoked. Some jurors smiling along watching video. It has a fun feel to it... the kids are throwing popcorn at each other, laughing, running around. When Mesereau was done playing the video, he asked the child if her was excited to be a part of the video... kid says not really: "I was sleepy." ???!!!! One juror in front row looks like a disapproving mom with her expression.
Another video looks like a love song video and shows accuser and Jackson walking through grounds of Neverland. The accuser is sick with cancer... peach fuzz hair, skinny and very pale. The two are walking around hand in hand. They take a train.... ride around the park, Jackson holds his hand and takes him to a big shade tree... lays out a blanket (did I mention the Jackson Five song "I'll be there" is playing in the background) the two lay on the blanket on their stomachs, pointing out to the lake and fountains. Then they walk off... shot taken from the back of the two walking away. Accuser reaches over and puts his arm around Jacksson (who's holding his umbrella) and Jackson puts his arm around him. I think it was shown to show Jackson acting like a father figure.
Brother is asked if he ever said Jackson was a father figure to him he said no. Mesereau plays rebuttal video... kid says he is like a father figure to him. When challenged, he said he was lying.
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