Inside the Peterson Jury
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
This is a partial transcript from "On the Record," December 14, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: Tonight, the Scott Peterson (search) jurors are here. They're going to take us inside the courtroom and the jury room where they reached verdicts of guilt and death for Scott Peterson.
First the jury foreman, Steve Cardosi, a 29-year-old firefighter/paramedic who replaced dismissed juror Gregory Jackson as the foreperson.
Next, juror No. 1, Greg Beratlis, a youth football and baseball coach.
Juror No. 7, Richelle Nice, a mother of four who replaced dismissed juror No. 7 Frances Gorman.
And they are joined by alternate juror Mike Church, who was not in deliberations, but was there for all the testimony.
Welcome to all of you. And Steve, since you were the foreperson, let me start with you. We don't get much information on how you do this, how you make a determination of death or not. What was the procedure that you used in the jury room?
STEVE CARDOSI, PETERSON JURY FOREMAN: For the penalty phase?
VAN SUSTEREN: Yes. I mean, when you went into the jury room to begin your deliberations, how did you decide what to do?
CARDOSI: Well, we needed to come up with just basic rules that we were going to try and live by because, you know, as you go through and you're discussing things, many of these topics are going to be heated topics or people are going to have differences of opinion. So you needed to make sure that nobody got more time than somebody else, everybody was treating each other with respect, and you know, that everybody had a fair chance to be heard. And that was our first order of business, so to speak.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Greg, let's talk about last Friday. Were there any sort of heated areas that people disagreed, or at least wanted to talk more about?
GREG BERATLIS, PETERSON JUROR: I think the hardest part was the fact that this an inner decision — mitigation, aggravating, the circumstances, listening to everything and sitting there and putting the weight on what was important to each person. I think that was probably the hardest part. And you had to understand that people put weight on different things, and that trying to work through that and understand that.
VAN SUSTEREN: Greg, was it harder for you than you anticipated?
BERATLIS: Yes. Yes. I fault myself for not understanding the magnitude. First off, six months, seven months ago, before this, I never thought I'd be in this situation, and here I am now, you know, with all the information that I had to hold inside. And I do remember seeing you Monday at the conference, and as I explained, we were in there for six months and we couldn't talk about any of this information with each other. And we couldn't go home and bounce this information off. We couldn't talk to friends. And it was very hard. This whole process was hard. But I do know that we all followed it by the rules that we were given, to the oath that we had given.
VAN SUSTEREN: Richelle, to you. In terms of making this decision, was it harder personally than you ever dreamed it would be before you were even selected for the jury?
RICHELLE NICE, PETERSON JUROR: Yes. Yes. I mean, what Greg said. You know, if we could have prepared some way seven months ago for this, I don't think any of us expected the magnitude of this.
VAN SUSTEREN: Richelle, what do you think we don't understand about the process, those of us who have never served on a jury of this importance?
NICE: All the information, and the crime itself, the families that were hurt and destroyed, friends. Having a man's life in your hands is — I can't even find the words for it at all. I mean, a man's life in your hands is a difficult decision.
VAN SUSTEREN: Mike, you were an alternate. You had to sit through all the testimony, but then you were not part of the decision. Is that the better job, or do you think it's the better job to complete it and be the actual juror who helps make the decision?
MIKE CHURCH, ALTERNATE JUROR: I think at the beginning, I thought it was the better job. You know, being alternate six, there was very little chance of them, I thought, reaching me. But I didn't realize just what kind of a cost it was going to impose. I mean, I sat there and listened to all the testimony that these guys did, as well, and then there wasn't anything to do with it. There wasn't anybody to talk to about it. And there was a real feeling of powerlessness, waiting in the alternates' room for that dreaded step down the stairs that might bring one or the other of us into the jury room. It was a very powerless kind of situation. And I don't think it was any less, it was differently, but any less sort of emotionally charged than the jurors were facing.
VAN SUSTEREN: Steve, on Monday about 9:30 or so, we got word that the jury wanted to see some pictures. Among the pictures were the remains of Laci and Conner. Who wanted those in the jury room?
CARDOSI: Actually, Greta, I did. I wanted to just, within myself, just kind of firm up my thought and to make sure that I was going to be OK with potentially sentencing a man to death. And to do so, I thought I needed to see those pictures because — following Sharon Rocha's testimony — those pictures really did bring this all to a head for me. It brought it all out. It brought, you know, the reality of it out. And to be able to look at those pictures close up, versus, you know, from 30, 40 feet away, up on the Powerpoint, or from five or six feet away, with somebody holding them up, is completely different. It brings them into reality more. It's almost like you can touch them, you know?
VAN SUSTEREN: Steve, you're a paramedic. I imagine you've seen the worst, in your occupation. Were these pictures worse than what you've seen in your own work? Was there something different about these?
CARDOSI: Well, obviously, being a paramedic and stuff, you're dealing with things that you're trying to save lives. So typically, I wouldn't say that it's worse, or not. It is different, though. It's completely different because, obviously, in a situation like that, you wouldn't show up with a fire engine or an ambulance and transport, you know, Laci or Conner in the condition in which they were found. That is the job of the coroner. It's just different. I've seen things like that, though, where people wash up from the beach and everything else. I've actually seen stuff like that before.
VAN SUSTEREN: Mike Belmessieri, the viewers didn't get to see Scott Peterson in court. There were no cameras in the courtroom. How do you describe his demeanor in the courtroom throughout the trial?
MIKE BELMESSIERI, PETERSON JUROR: Well, ma'am, I'd describe his demeanor in the courtroom as emotionless, except an occasional tear.
VAN SUSTEREN: Is that something that you discussed during your deliberations, in either the guilt phase or the sentencing, I mean, Scott's demeanor itself in the courtroom?
BELMESSIERI: His demeanor was a point of discussion, but certainly not a heavy factor, I don't feel, other than what was perceived to be a lack of remorse.
VAN SUSTEREN: Was it more in the guilt phase or the sentencing phase that his demeanor was a part of the decision?
BELMESSIERI: More in the guilt phase, part of the aggravating factors, I would say. Lack of remorse could be communicated through his behavior.
VAN SUSTEREN: Richelle, did you ever make eye contact with Scott Peterson during the trial at all?
NICE: I did. I looked over at him. I did.
VAN SUSTEREN: What did you think?
NICE: No emotion. You know, it's hard to judge. Was he coached? Is that the way he really is? I mean, you just don't know. But it affected me.
VAN SUSTEREN: In what way?
NICE: It bothered me that a friend got up on the stand and Scott dropped a tear, and it affected me that Laci and Conner's picture were shown and no tears were dropped. That did affect me. It didn't weigh heavy.
VAN SUSTEREN: Is it something that was discussed, though? I mean, is it something you think also weighed heavily on your colleagues? I mean, was it discussed?
NICE: No, like Mike said, it was discussed, but I don't think too much weight was put on it.
VAN SUSTEREN: Greg, what about you? Did you have any sort of eye contact at all with Peterson throughout any part of the trial or even going in and out of the courtroom?
BERATLIS: Yes. Yes. I looked at them. Why wouldn't I? I went in there, like I said, with the belief that he was innocent. And you know, the information afterwards changed my mind. I looked at him. I looked at him even when we came with a verdict of guilty. And like I've said before, it wasn't a matter of being defiant. It wasn't a matter of saying, Here we are. No, it was the fact that if I'm going to be in this situation, to have a man's life in my hands, as far as I'm concerned, I need to be able to look at you in the eye.
VAN SUSTEREN: And did you get some sort of response or did you get a blank look back?
BERATLIS: Most often, a blank look. Emotionless. That would be the description.
VAN SUSTEREN: Did his demeanor in court have any bearing on how you analyzed the evidence?
BERATLIS: No. No. Not me. I had to listen to the evidence. Everybody deals with things differently.
VAN SUSTEREN: Steve, you replaced a gentleman who had been the foreperson. Why was he removed from the jury?
CARDOSI: He put in a request. To my understanding, we've been informed that he didn't feel comfortable with the process. He thought that he was going to be basically going along with the 11 other jurors' verdict. He didn't feel, I guess, that he could be an individual. I'm not sure exactly. As I've said before, that's for him to actually answer, why he was removed. I don't know anything further than that.
VAN SUSTEREN: Did you get the sense that Gregory Jackson was leaning a particular way? For instance, I guess since the verdict was ultimately guilty, was he leaning towards not guilty? Is that the problem?
CARDOSI: Actually, we didn't really have any sense, at the point he was removed, where anybody was truly leaning. He just processed information a lot slower. He had a lot of books, 18 to 20 books. And you know, being the foreman, you are more of a facilitator and you're standing up. Well, he needed to sit down and go through his books. And when we posed that option to him, he seemed very opposed to that. And when we finally got him to sit down and start going through his books, he decided that he didn't want to be on the jury anymore.
VAN SUSTEREN: Greg, what's your sense of why he wanted off?
BERATLIS: To be honest with you, I didn't understand why he wanted off. When I found out that he had requested to be removed from the jury, I was disappointed. I was disappointed in the fact that we'd gone through this together for six months-plus. And to get to this point, after we went through processing just the first two days, just getting some kind of order in there and how we were going to do this work, or you know, come to this decision, or whatever it was going to be, and what we were going to do as individuals. And then all of a sudden, he wants out. And when I found out that that was what his request to the judge was, I told him I was disappointed in him.
VAN SUSTEREN: Mike Church, where were you, as the alternate, when everybody else was deliberating? What'd they do with you?
CHURCH: They parked us in a conference room downstairs in the county building, where we actually went in, the first room we went into in the building in the mornings. And we sat there with videos. They set up some laptop computers for us to play with. We watched a lot of movies. I am so sick of DVDs, let me tell you.
CHURCH: The time was very hard to use. There was, you know, six hours of waiting for those guys to get through with deliberations for the day. And it seemed incredibly useless time. We couldn't settle to anything. It was stressful in an indefinable way.
VAN SUSTEREN: Time moves slowly when you're sitting in a room. Mike Belmessieri, during the course of deliberations, the jury asked to see Scott Peterson's boat. It was brought over to the courthouse, or at least to an adjacent building, down in the garage. And you all looked at it. Why did you want to see it?
BELMESSIERI: I didn't want to see it. Some other jurors did. And they had, I guess, their own reasons. I've never really quite figured that one out. But I guess, you know, just a picture is one thing, but to go out and actually see the boat and try to, you know, figure out how it worked in the larger scheme of things. That's probably why the jurors that wished to see it asked for that.
VAN SUSTEREN: Greg, we were at a hearing that you weren't part of after you all looked at the boat. And at that hearing, we learned that at least one person or maybe two people got into the boat. Is that right?
BERATLIS: That's correct.
VAN SUSTEREN: Who got into the boat?
BERATLIS: Well, you asked me, so I figured you know. It was me.
VAN SUSTEREN: Oh, actually, no. I didn't know that!
BERATLIS: It was me and it was the original foreman.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. You asked permission from the judge, and he said, Go ahead, right?
BERATLIS: Correct. I made sure.
VAN SUSTEREN: Why did you want to get in the boat?
BERATLIS: Because there were questions about the stability of the boat that when we listened to the experts, I don't think those questions were answered in our minds. We needed to have a little bit more to that. And I climbed in the boat.
You know, to look, like everybody was saying, at pictures, didn't mean much to us. And not being able to get in the boat originally for some — we walked out there, we were, like, hands off, and kind of walked around with your hands in our pockets. And we didn't know what we could do. And then when we got to the deliberation, we said, you know, Can we go and look at the boat? Can we physically get inside the boat? And then when the judge agreed to it and he asked, I believe, the rest of the — you know, the defense and the prosecution, and they said OK, we did it, you know?
It was a matter of just getting an idea of the boat. Looking at it in a picture didn't speak much.
VAN SUSTEREN: Greg, the description the judge gave in court is that you got in it and you rocked back and forth or I think jumped up and down. How would you describe what was done in that boat?
BERATLIS: We tried rocking it. One of them was standing — one person was standing up, and another person was kneeling. I was the person kneeling. And we were trying to show what was the buoyancy. And then we were also directed that realize the boat was not in the water and that the situation, the reaction would be different. And we took that into account. We understood that. We acknowledged that.
VAN SUSTEREN: Richelle, was that one of the issues that was discussed, then, in your deliberations after you all looked at the boat and at least two people got in the boat? Did you discuss the stability of the boat?
NICE: Greta, I wasn't there. Remember, I was an alternate to start, so I know both sides of this, and I wasn't down there when they looked at the boat.
VAN SUSTEREN: Steve, let me go to you, then, on it. Although you were not the foreman at that time, you were at least on the general panel at that time. Was that a point of discussion?
CARDOSI: Well, the boat was a point of discussion for people who had never been around boats. I myself have actually been around boats, and I was comfortable with seeing it or not seeing it. I was kind of indifferent. But for some of the other people, you know, you kind of take them around the boat and show them that this is a motor, and in the back by the motor are drain holes, and you just kind of point out some simple, basic things about the boat.
VAN SUSTEREN: How about the buoyancy, though? That discussion, though. I mean, the stability issue that Greg just talked about — was that part of the discussions while you were on it, while it was on the trailer?
CARDOSI: Well, the stability issue, like he said, it was on a trailer, it wasn't in the water, so it's kind of irrelevant. It's not exactly the same. And you can't weigh something that's not the same or even remotely similar. I mean, here's a boat that's meant to be in the water, and we have it on a trailer on land. So it was just kind of, you know, just so people could see and touch the boat, is why we went out there.
VAN SUSTEREN: Monday, at an emotional press conference, the jurors reacted to the impact of Amber Frey on this case.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BERATLIS: I don't think that Amber Frey was the issue. I think that this had been planned before Amber Frey even got in the picture. So, I don't think it was because of lust. It wasn't I don't think.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: Mike Church, as the alternate you would have had your chance had you been on the panel to give a vote on both guilt and also on the issue of sentencing. What would you have voted? You must have had time sitting down in that conference room thinking about this.
CHURCH: Yes, I did but not really to get to the point of being able to make a decision. What I've said and what I will say again is that I support these guys' decision.
I had all the testimony that they did but without the deliberation process, I think that's like two legs for a stool. There's no way to get to a final answer without having that sort of give and take in the deliberation.
And these 12 people were the only ones that could make that decision after the deliberation process and that's why I feel like I've got a lot of data but it didn't ever kind of come to anything but I support their decision wholeheartedly.
VAN SUSTEREN: Richelle, yesterday at the press conference you talked about Justin Falconer, the juror who got bumped very early on. He was, I mean you have some thoughts about Justin Falconer. What are your thoughts about him?
NICE: I mean, I just think that Justin was here for a very short time and he knows what he knows up until the point he was kicked off and I can see his point and I respect his point but he didn't finish it out with us the seven months and he just has no idea at all, none. And I can say that, oh, I just lost my thought.
VAN SUSTEREN: Let me help you out. Was there a particular point that Justin Falconer made that you just flat out disagreed with?
NICE: Yes, the point that he felt like the decision we came to was based on the public and I wholeheartedly disagree with him.
VAN SUSTEREN: How did you know that he made that decision, that he made that comment?
NICE: Well, since we've been let out it's been brought to our attention. It's been brought to my attention by every single person that's come to talk to me, so that's how I know.
VAN SUSTEREN: Did you know that Monday at the press, or did you already know it at that point when the three of you spoke out?
VAN SUSTEREN: Steve, if you could say anything at all tonight to Scott Peterson what would it be?
CARDOSI: I'm at a loss. I have really nothing to say at this point to him. I could ask him a question. It's just why would you do this? That would be it.
VAN SUSTEREN: Greg, how about you?
BERATLIS: What would I ask?
VAN SUSTEREN: Or say to Scott Peterson.
BERATLIS: I think I would ask why the lies, why the deception? What was gained if truly in all this — why? I'm lost. I don't know why. That's the question. I'd like to know why he lied. If everything was so perfect and everything was going so well, why lie? You know there were other options.
VAN SUSTEREN: Richelle, you said yesterday that in essence that you'd heard enough from Scott Peterson. But, if you could say something to him, I mean like if you had a private moment with him tonight, what would you say to him?
NICE: It would also be why because I don't understand and I don't think I'll ever understand. It would be why?
VAN SUSTEREN: Do you have sort of a theory, Richelle, as to where this happened? I mean sort of always we've never had a murder scene. We don't know if it was a fight on December 23rd. We don't know. I mean in many ways while there's a ton of circumstantial evidence there still are some unanswered questions. Do you have a theory how this happened?
NICE: I've played it out in my mind. I have a theory. I think it happened in their home.
VAN SUSTEREN: Any idea what provoked it or was it simply the long plan with buying the boat, the anchors, the maps?
NICE: I think it all tied into one but, you know, I can't say. I don't know. That would be part of the question is why? What happened? What caused you to come to this point?
VAN SUSTEREN: Mike in terms of Sharon Rocha when she said divorce was an option, you didn't have to murder or something, I mean that's what stands out in my mind sitting there at the sentencing. What stands out in your mind?
BELMESSIERI: Well, exactly that. Divorce was not an option is what Sharon said and for Scott divorce was not an option because I guess it would be failure to Scott. It wasn't in his game plan.
VAN SUSTEREN: How hard was it to listen to Sharon for you, Mike?
BELMESSIERI: Oh, please. That was heart-wrenching. It was just absolutely heart-wrenching. Being a parent how could it not be?
VAN SUSTEREN: It's no secret that I love jurors and I very much appreciate all the work that they do, so I'm delighted to have all of you join us tonight.
Richelle, one of the questions that we all talked about as we watched this trial is what does the jury think of Amber's testimony and what did they think of Amber? How do you answer those questions?
NICE: What I think of Amber is I think she was one of Scott's victims. I think he manipulated her like he did everyone else. I feel bad for Amber. Her testimony was powerful, you know. I think she did an outstanding job and I take my hat off to her.
VAN SUSTEREN: Steve, in listening to those tapes, the Amber tapes and also the wiretap tapes what struck me is how unconcerned or flat Scott Peterson seemed. Is that at all consistent with what you thought? Was it discussed in the jury room?
CARDOSI: That's very consistent with what I thought. We did discuss that in the jury room. We discussed, you know, here's a guy who supposedly his wife was abducted or whatever happened to his wife but yet he's romancing his lover or girlfriend, for lack of a better term, at her vigil.
These things are very disconcerting and, you know, when you think about that his wife, pregnant with his baby, you know, he at some point in there had to have loved her and for him to be romancing another woman while she's missing was a pretty big topic for us.
VAN SUSTEREN: You know, Greg, I wondered as I listened to that, I wondered what Jackie and Lee Peterson, Scott Peterson's parents thought listening to those tapes. Did you think about that at all?
BERATLIS: Yes. I can't say I didn't play through that with all the people that were involved. The family members — what were they thinking when they heard this? I mean they supported Scott up on that podium, you know, or at the vigil trying to rally behind him even though he wasn't up there and did she feel that she was deceived in this? But I don't know. Once again I don't know. I don't understand the deception like I explained earlier, why?
VAN SUSTEREN: Mike Belmessieri, what did you think of listening to the tapes, I mean and listening to Scott Peterson unknowing that he's being taped?
BELMESSIERI: Well, I wasn't so sure as we moved along that he wasn't aware that he was being taped. I should say the phone bugged but he certainly didn't think, yes, he didn't think Amber was taping him. You know, that was pretty powerful stuff.
As you go through that, you know, that's part of the twisted mind of Scott Peterson. His wife is missing and he's on a love affair in Paris and Luxembourg or wherever all the places he went, I can't remember, and the whole time he's talking from Modesto, USA.
You know, I mean, the whole situation with Amber and I see Amber Frey as a victim and I see her as a very courageous woman. I think she did an outstanding job but, yes, you know to say that the wiretaps and tapes weren't powerful evidence would be certainly a misstatement.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, Richelle and gentlemen, thank you very much and I want you to know that everybody that I've talked to has said how impressed they are with how serious you took your job and paid attention for a long and taking an awesome responsibility. Thank you to all of you.