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I have received lots of e-mails mad at me for criticizing on our show Friday the crowd outside the Redwood City (search), California courthouse.
Let me point some things out: I did NOT criticize the jury. In fact, I appreciate the hard work the jury does do — and, in this case, they gave over six months of their lives to this trial. This was not an easy case — and their job was anything but "fun." It is horrible to sit as a juror in a murder case and their job is not over. It is a huge responsibility.
Second, I did not criticize the families. I have done just the opposite. I wish you could meet both families. You would like them both. Not only would you like them, but, if you met them, you would see their pain is unending and immense. They don't talk about their pain to us in the media, but you can feel it when you see them. I have great empathy for all the family members.
Sharon Rocha (search) lost her daughter to an unthinkable crime and, prior to her daughter's disappearance, loved her son-in-law. He betrayed his wife and, in killing Laci, he betrayed Sharon. My guess is that Sharon never dreamed that Scott could — or would — hurt her daughter.
Jackie Peterson (search) loved her daughter-in-law and loves her son Scott. From everything I know, she believes in his innocence and now faces the prospect that he could be executed for the murder of her daughter-in-law. Many say Jackie is blinded by her love, but nonetheless she is suffering beyond words.
The dignity each family member showed in court every day would result in your admiration for them if you had seen them. I know that after watching them these months under this horrible pressure and pain, I admire each of them. I don't know if I could show as much dignity under these circumstances as each family member has. This includes not just Sharon and Jackie but Lee Peterson, Brent Rocha and other family members. Each one is hurting beyond your wildest imagination.
And even though the verdict was guilty, this does not make Sharon Rocha happy. Yes, she wanted justice for her daughter but more than that she wanted what every parent wants — to see her daughter grow older and live a happy life. She can't have that and must settle for simply justice.
Now, I admit, I do not admire the crowd that gathered outside the courthouse cheering the verdict. Yes, I am critical of the crowd cheering — regardless of the verdict (and this one was guilty.) I know Sharon Rocha didn't call for the crowd and didn't come out to greet the crowd after the verdict. She slipped out of the courthouse — wanting to deal with her pain a different way. Sharon has dignity. Jackie tried to leave through a side door but was jeered by some in the crowd. Jackie didn't commit a crime. Jackie was not even accused of a crime. Yet some in the crowd wanted her to hurt more than she already does. Frankly, I thought this was cruel. Jeer Scott, but not his mother. Like Sharon, she showed dignity and did not respond to the jeering crowd.
Some have written me saying that members of the crowd have First Amendment right to be there and to yell and scream. Yup. They do. They have a First Amendment right to be stupid and cruel, too. This includes creating such a hostile environment that the judge decides to move the jury to another community — which means spending more money. California has enough money problems without this!
More importantly, this jury was released to the community (they had been sequestered) for one week before the penalty phase begins. Will the jurors find out about the community sentiment? Will that create more problems when the jury returns for the sentencing phase? My bet is yes. It was hard to miss the crowd screaming and cheering. So don't blame me if we are going through juror nightmare when the next phase begins.
I am willing to bet that the crowd screaming, cheering and jeering has just created an appellate issue for the defense to show why it thought Scott Peterson could not get a fair trial in that community in the first place. Before the defense made claims the environment was hostile — now the crowd has given the defense evidence of it.
I am proud of the jury. I am proud of the families. Those who showed up to cheer showed very poor judgment. They were a mob.
[E-mails to come Tuesday].
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