Judge at Scott Peterson trial hoped to avoid 'renegade' jury
Delucchi tells Rotarians about some of
the issues he faced
By Ricci Graham, STAFF WRITER
HAYWARD — Members of the Hayward Rotary were hoping to get the inside scoop on the Scott Peterson murder trial. And who better than Superior Court Judge Alfred Delucchi to feed the insatiable longing for behind-the-scene details of a trial that two years ago captured the attention of a nation?
But Delucchi, who presided over the latest trial of the century, didn't bite. He couldn't, because Peterson, the Modesto man who was found guilty of murdering his pregnant wife Laci, is appealing his death sentence.
But while Delucchi was unable to provide juicy specifics of the case, he did shed light on numerous issues while addressing the Rotarians at their weekly luncheon on Monday.
Delucchi opened his 40-minute address with an interesting admission: He had hoped to avoid being assigned the trial, which was held in a San Mateo County courtroom.
"How I got selected for the case, I don't know," said Delucchi, a retired judge who had tried 22 death penalty cases during his 35-year career. "I was sort of flattered."
Once he accepted the case, Delucchi said, he knew that it was no ordinary assignment. Like the O.J. Simpson murder trial, the Peterson trial had all the makings of a made-for-TV event, but Delucchi seized control.
In banning cameras from the Redwood City courtroom, Delucchi said he had to balance the "tension" of a fair trial against "the media's right to know."
"It's always my position that a defendant's right to a fair trial trumps the public's right to know," said Delucchi, who is known among his peers as "the dean of death penalty judges."
"I'm not in the entertainment business," he continued. "I'm there to see that justice is done."
Delucchi said his greatest concern during jury selection was guarding against a "stealth juror," someone who seeks a seat on the jury for personal gain. He said about 1,600
prospective jurors were interviewed, and it was clear many wanted a place on the jury.
"When you get a high-profile case, you have to be careful, because people give the right answers to be on the jury," said Delucchi, who works at the Hayward Hall of Justice. "You have to be careful that you don't get a bunch of renegades on the jury (who) don't care for justice."
Delucchi, who was a guest of Superior Court Judge Roy Hashimoto, said he was taken aback by the spare-no-expense approach by San Mateo County, which assigned four deputies to the courtroom. When he needed a new chair so he could have a clear view of the courtroom, officials arrived with three chairs from which he could choose.
"In Alameda County, if I need a chair, they'd go down to salvage," he said to laughter.
During the trial, officials held a daily lottery to determine which members of the public would be allowed into the courtroom. But, Delucchi said, that changed when word spread that some people were selling their tickets.
"People are shrewd," said Delucchi who was escorted in and out of court by a deputy.
Delucchi sequestered the jury during deliberations, but that didn't prevent some from trying to push the envelope.
One sought permission to run around the block with a personal trainer during breaks, while another wanted to know if it was permissible to have a cocktail when not deliberating.
"I said let them have one drink with dinner," said Delucchi, who didn't say how he resolved the trainer request.