Alternate juror Mike Church discusses the case


Dec. 14, 2004

Court TV Host: Our guest, Peterson alternate juror Mike Church, is joining us now!

Court TV Host: Thank you, Mike Church, for being our guest today.

Mike Church: Hi, whoever's out there!

Question from T_in_texas: I want to know: Mr. JUROR #6, what do you think of Geragos' tactics and the boat (showboating in the parking lot) ... his joking demeanor?

Mike Church: I knew nothing about the boat in the parking lot. I heard somebody talking about it second-hand, but that was all. I don't remember when I heard it, it was towards the end of the trial, but I don't remember it affecting me, and it was unclear who had done it. A lot of that information the jury didn't have know about, because we weren't reading the papers or watching the news. As to Geragos's style, I personally didn't have a problem with it. His sense of delivery was sometimes a relief after the very plain low-key presentation by the prosecution, which could get boring.

Question from Mountaineer: First I want to thank you for fulfilling your civic duty, and putting your life on hold while serving on the jury. I would like to know, did you agree with the verdict, and the sentence?

Mike Church: Yes, I support the jury's conclusion wholeheartedly, because I think they, the 12 jurors are the only ones who can rationally make that decision. I heard the same testimony that they did, but I did not have the benefit of deliberation, and I think that that is essential in making anyone's final determination -- only those in the room could really make that decision, and I support what they did.

Question from A_in_Texas: Did anyone (on the jury?) wonder if perhaps Scott's lawyers told him to be stoic?

Mike Church: No, some people may have thought it, but you'll have to remember that we were under the judge's admonishment to not talk about the trial, and so outside of the deliberation room, we all talked about football games and family members and things like that, but nothing to do with the trial. It was always the 800 pound gorilla in the room that no one could talk about.

Question from loops: Mike, did Scott try to make eye contact with you anytime during the trial?

Mike Church: No, not that I sensed anyway. When we walked in and out at the breaks and the beginning and end of day, we had to walk right by the defense table, and occasionally over the weeks you would feel Scott Peterson's eyes on you as you walked in. I may have made eye contact with him three or four times during the six months, but I eventually tried to avoid the possibility of eye contact. Mark Geragos, while he was seated, either cross examining or on direct, was often looking at the jury, I assume trying to read the body language.

Question from Sessie: Mike, thank you for coming. Did you find Mrs. Peterson's testimony credible, or did you find her story suspect?

Mike Church: I think it was a stretch for me to believe that the cash was entirely accidental.

Question from compromise: What do you think the verdict would have been if any of the three ousted jurors had stayed on the panel?

Mike Church: There's no way to answer that, since we had literally no conversation about the details of the trial, up until the deliberations, I have no idea on it, and I don't think anyone will ever know.

Question from Cowboy: How much did the fact that Scott was caught cheating on Laci influence the decision in this case?

Mike Church: I know what you know on that, I watched the interview that the three jurors gave, and I think that it was a piece of the puzzle, but not the whole thing for any of them. I agree with what I heard one of the twelve jurors saying, it was at best sort of incongruous that while he was pretending, or searching for his missing wife, he was making calls to his girlfriend.

Question from LaRue: Mike: What is your impression of Justin Falconer and the rounds he's been making with the media?

Mike Church: I haven't seen him. I'd heard from others that he was on. I was told that he made some judgment about how he would have felt if he agreed with the jury verdict or not. I believe he was removed in about the fourth or fifth week, so he didn't hear all of the prosecution case or any of the defense. I honestly don't know how he could validly state an opinion about whether this person was innocent or guilty. What I was impressed with by the process was: the only people that could make the judgment were the twelve jurors who heard all the testimony and then deliberated on that. I heard all of the testimony that they did, but without the benefit of the deliberation process. I don't think there's any way that we alternates could say with absolute confidence what position we would have taken. The essence of deliberation, it seems to me, is stating a position and listening to others, and arguing and being open to changing one's mind. And from what I can gather, that happened as recently as this Monday, when at least three or four of the jurors were not yet convinced of the death penalty verdict.

Question from snurf: What was the first jury foreman like, as a man?

Mike Church: Very quiet, very reserved. I didn't have a lot of conversation with him over the months. I think from the way he appeared he was probably a fairly analytical person, but he wanted to remain private and succeeded.

Question from Reva: Hi Mike, what is your opinion on the first degree for Laci and only 2nd degree for the baby?

Mike Church: I guess it seemed a little incongruous to me, in the sense that the first degree, and I think I heard yesterday that the jury believed it was a planned deliberate act, and it at first seems odd that they would have felt that Laci's murder was premeditated and that the baby's was not.

Question from Genesis9v6: Mike, are you relieved that you didn't have to cast a vote for the death penalty, what would your vote have been?

Mike Church: I was relieved that I didn't have to deliberate, and basically vote either for the guilt phase or the penalty phase. But I discovered that there is a down side to that as an alternate: as hard as the decision obviously was for the jurors, they got to deal with the issue and confront it, and could then at least move on. The alternates had all the information but didn't have any way to deal with it. We got as emotionally engaged in the trial as anyone, but with less opportunity to resolve anything. As I said previously, I support the jury's verdict, because I think they are the only ones that could make that judgment. And unless I was part of the deliberations, i don't know for a fact what position I would have taken. Sitting here now, I might think that I was in support of the death penalty or life in prison, but that position might have been radically changed by listening to the views of others.

Question from Montana: Mike , what did you think of the phone call where Scott Peterson gave a little whistle?

Mike Church: That didn't influence me all that much. It wasn't totally clear that that was kind of an expression of an opinion or anything else substantive. I don't remember at what point in the transcripts this came up, but to put it in perspective we listened to I think 35 or 38 hours of telephone conversations over a little over a week, and it became very difficult to segregate anything significant after a while. It was incredibly difficult to deal with because we were very focused on listening and concentrating, but in truth it was almost torture listening to real time telephone conversations at that length, with all the ums and ahs, and scratchy recordings.

Question from Sara: What would you have liked to see the defense do differently in this case? Would you have liked to see Scott testify?

Mike Church: I think it would have been interesting to see Scott testify, but I got the impression that that was unlikely. I think the defense at the opening statements said that they would present a counter-argument to the prosecution and in the end, what I saw them do was challenge the prosecution's witnesses, but not really put on a complete defense, certainly in the sense of offering detailed testimony about another theory or theories about the murder.

Question from LuvU2: Hi Mike, How has this experience changed your life?

Question from JenTE: How is life for you, one day after this verdict?

Question from MilanGirl: Hello and how are you today? Are you glad its over?

Mike Church: I am glad it's over. I started to catch a cold on Sunday, and it was in full bloom by yesterday. I think one of the jurors who commented yesterday that once the trial is over and the pressure is off, a lot of the jurors might get sick, I think is accurate. I don't think this will change my life. It changed it over the six months, there was no possibility of vacation this summer. I forewent a trip to England to visit my father on his birthday, so that was hardship, but I don't think it will make a permanent change to me. I can already feel how quickly things move on, how transitory the interest in these sorts of things is. I think six months from now, it will have faded. Just speaking as an alternate, rather than a juror, I would say that everyone, we all were surprised at how exhausting the court process was even though you're sitting all day, and you would think not doing very much, we were all surprised by how exhausted we were at the end of each day. I think it was a product of concentrating for four to six hours during testimony. As an alternate I think one of the dominant impressions I had was the feeling of powerlessness I had no ability to influence the outcome of this trial even though we were as much involved as were the jurors, we had no, in the end, no say, and no way to resolve the emotions generated by the trial. The jurors got to make a hard choice, or choices, and the penalty they got to work through, those issues, and I think it makes it easier for them to move on. For me, it felt as an alternate, like I had all of the emotional burden of the trial but no way to resolve it. I'm looking forward to the chance to sit down with the jurors at some point just to talk about the trial and how they reached their decision, something we could not do up until yesterday.