Death Row Hell Awaits Scott Peterson

03/17/2005 at 08:00 AM EST

Death Row Hell Awaits Scott Peterson
Justin Sullivan, Pool/AP
Judge Alfred Delucchi on Wednesday upheld the jury's recommendation that Scott Peterson be put to death for the Christmas Eve 2002 murders of his wife Laci and their unborn son Conner.

Before dawn on Thursday, Peterson, wearing an orange prison jumpsuit, chains and leg irons, was taken to San Quentin State Prison.

Prior to his trip to death row, the 32-year-old former fertilizer salesman, sitting stone-faced in court Wednesday, faced a barrage of emotional epithets from Laci's family.

"You are a monster," said Laci's sister, Amy Rocha. "You deserve everything that's coming to you." Added Laci's mother, Sharon Rocha: "You deserve to burn in hell for all eternity."

For Peterson, the maximum-security facility (right on San Francisco Bay, where the remains of Laci and Conner washed up in April 2003, thus setting the case against Scott in motion) will certainly be hell on earth.

More on Scott Peterson

"You need survival instincts to make it on death row," Robert Jensen, a corrections counselor at San Quentin from 1992 to 1998, tells PEOPLE in its latest issue. "My gut reaction is he might not make it."

Peterson's first stop will be the 102-cell Adjustment Center, where he could spend his first 45 days. Peterson gets 10 days to choose his method of execution – death by gas or lethal injection. "If he doesn't, the state chooses for him," says prison spokesman Vernell Crittendon. "Then it's lethal injection."

Peterson will spend all but four hours of every other day (set aside for exercise in a private outdoor cage) inside his 10-ft.-by-6-ft. cell. "It is a life of inactivity," says Crittendon. "It's just the worst thing you can imagine. It's easy to die, but it's hard to live every day and not be active."

After 45 days Peterson will likely join 450 inmates in East Block Condemned Row Two. As many as seven days a week, prison guards – who sometimes wear plexiglass spit shields – will escort a shackled Peterson to a concrete courtyard where he can stretch his legs in a communal exercise area along with up to 85 other inmates.

"He's going to stand out," says Lee Farmer, who spent years on death row before his murder conviction was overturned in 1992. "They'll be curious about him. It's a sizing-up process."

Peterson, says James Anderson, a former Alameda County prosecutor who sent 10 convicts to death row, "will have to watch his back. Prisoners who have a good chance at being executed may think, 'Well, hell, I might as well go down in a blaze of glory by taking out a guy who is notorious.'"

As for protection from other prisoners, "the only gang he could be in is the Aryan Brotherhood," believes Anderson, "and even those guys wouldn't like somebody who did in his pregnant wife and unborn child."

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