REDWOOD CITY, Calif. – Scott Peterson (search) could have a positive impact on other inmates in prison if jurors spare his life, Peterson's half brother testified Friday in the penalty phase of the former fertilizer salesman's double-murder trial.
"Scott is a person you want to be around in any circumstances ... He's a listener, a talker, someone that cares," Joe Peterson said. "He's just got so much to share that there would definitely be a positive.
"And if he's allowed to live, my kids and our family will still have some sort of relationship, however limited it is," Joe Peterson said.
Scott Peterson was convicted Nov. 12 on one count of first-degree murder in the death of his eight-months pregnant wife, Laci Peterson (search), and one count of second-degree murder for the killing of her fetus.
Prosecutors say smothered or strangled Laci in their Modesto home on or around Christmas Eve 2002, then dumped her weighted body into San Francisco Bay. The remains of Laci and the fetus were discovered about four months later along a shoreline a few miles from where Peterson claims to have been fishing alone the day his wife vanished.
Testimony on Friday turned briefly to Peterson's love for fishing in a strategy legal analysts said could backfire on defense lawyers.
"It's entirely inappropriate at this phase to remind the jury of Scott's penchant for fishing," said Dean Johnson, a former prosecutor and trial observer. "Testimony should not remind them any more than necessary of this underlying crime."
Joe Peterson said his younger brother took up fishing at the age of 5. Defense lawyer Pat Harris displayed a picture of a young Peterson holding a fishing rod.
"He always loved being around the water, being on the shoreline," Joe Peterson said on the fourth day of the penalty phase.
Joe Peterson continued, describing for jurors how both he and Scott always wanted "to please our parents ... wanting to do the best we can do." He began to cry and wiped both eyes with a tissue. Scott Peterson also wept and wiped his eyes.
Jurors listened with grim expressions. One sat impassively with his arms crossed over his chest. Another appeared to be doodling in her notebook.
Asked whether he could imagine his brother having committed such a horrible crime, Joe Peterson said, "Not my brother, absolutely not."
Defense attorneys are trying to persuade jurors to spare Peterson's life with testimony about his childhood years and how a death sentence would affect his family members' lives. Jurors could also sentence Peterson to life in prison without parole.
Earlier, the mother of one of Scott Peterson's high school friends described the convicted murderer as a "caring, sweet, loving boy ... somebody that I was proud to have as my son's friend."
Conception "Coni" Fritz said Peterson was "a gentle man ... caring, considerate. That's the Scott we know."
Her son, Aaron, testified Thursday, describing Peterson as "truly sincere, very, very gracious and very, very thoughtful."
Defense attorneys told the judge Friday they planned to call about 20 more witnesses. Judge Alfred A. Delucchi (search) told jurors to expect testimony into Tuesday, possibly even Wednesday, before closing arguments.
Experts cautioned that dragging out testimony so close to Christmas could hurt the defense.
"It reminds them that just a couple of years ago on that very day, in cold blood, he murdered his pregnant wife and dumped her in the bay," said former San Francisco prosecutor and trial watcher Jim Hammer.