11/15/2004 at 01:00 AM EST
It may all come down to character. As the jurors at Scott Peterson's double-murder trial finally get the case after five months of testimony, they may spend a lot of time talking not about evidence, but about what kind of guy Peterson is. During dramatic closing arguments, both prosecutor Rick Distaso arid defense attorney Mark Geragos painted compelling—and conflicting—portraits of the man charged with killing his wife and unborn son. In his close on Nov. 1, Distaso laid out a litany of inconsistencies in Peterson's behavior following the disappearance of his pregnant wife, Laci—including the hundreds of phone calls he exchanged with mistress Amber Frey while maintaining the public pose of grieving husband—and branded him a "master manipulator." But the next day, as his 32-year-old client sat watching impassively, Geragos battled back. "We heard...this guy's the biggest jerk who ever walked the face of the earth," he told jurors. "[But] you're not supposed to decide this case on whether or not you like Scott Peterson."
Some jurors didn't hide their apparent disdain. One—who smiled at Laci's mother after the prosecution rested—closed her eyes as Geragos spoke. Another cracked his knuckles. Even after Geragos softened his demeanor in the afternoon, jurors—who at press time were expected to receive the case no earlier than Nov. 3 and have the option of considering both first-and second-degree murder charges—didn't warm up.
So who made the more convincing close? "Emotionally the prosecution is carrying the day. On the minutiae the defense is," says Loyola Law School Professor Stan Goldman. "When they get back into the jury room to deliberate this, what's going to stick with them more?"