INSIDE STORY: Scott Peterson's Life on Death Row

04/11/2009 at 10:45 AM EDT

INSIDE STORY: Scott Peterson's Life on Death Row
Scott Peterson
San Quentin State Prison
Sitting in a 4-by-9-foot cell on San Quentin's Death Row, Scott Peterson doesn't have a lot of choices in life, but he can decide how to decorate his wall.

While many cons plaster their cells with pictorial collages, Peterson has only one photo hanging across from his bunk: a smiling shot of him and his wife, Laci.

It's a much different pose from his most recent mug shot – taken in June of 2007 – where his dark hair was clipped short by fellow cons in the exercise yard. Under his half-smiling face is a placard with his inmate number and the word: "Condemned."

Peterson, 36, was sentenced to death by lethal injection in March of 2005 after being convicted of murdering Laci and their unborn son, Conner, and tossing them in the San Francisco Bay on Christmas Eve day of 2002. His case is on appeal, which means he isn't likely to face execution for two decades.

In the four years he has called San Quentin home, not much has changed except the view: eight months ago Peterson moved from a fifth tier cell on East Block with a slivered view of the bay to being "on the yard side," says Samuel Robinson, a lieutenant with the California Department of Corrections who has been at San Quentin since before Peterson arrived.

Plays Cards, Basketball

It's the same yard where Peterson now spends five hours a day shooting hoops, doing pull-ups and playing cards with other inmates like William Noguera, a prison artist who was convicted of murder for financial gain in 1983. "There are a group of guys that he hangs with," Robinson tells PEOPLE, "but it's not anyone of any (criminal) notoriety."

Predictions that Peterson might be ostracized – or worse – because of Conner's death have proven not to be true. "In Scott's case," says Robinson, "the perception [among the inmates] is that he killed his wife, and yeah she was pregnant, but he killed his wife. He hasn't encountered the challenges others face who have killed kids individually."

Robinson says Peterson still gets regular visits – several each month – from family and friends. He also receives numerous letters from female admirers who send him checks for his commissary account. "He has a significant amount of money in his account from people all over the world," says Robinson. Peterson can spend $180 a month on items such as soda, candy, cookies, toothpaste and deodorant.

Blogging from Prison

Peterson's only communication with the outside world is the blogging he has done on a Web site set up by his family, where he comments on his case and news events. (The site, scottpetersonappeal.org, is currently not in operation.) Since Robinson says inmates are not allowed to have computers or access the Internet, his blogs are composed on a typewriter and mailed to his family to post. His most recent post, headlined "Media spotlight wrong again," concerned the arrest of a man in the Chandra Levy murder.

Despite being locked in a cell for 19 hours a day, Robinson believes Peterson has adjusted well to his confinement. "You're still able to forge relationships with people who live around you and you try to make the most of your condition," says Robinson. "I think that's what Scotty is doing."

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