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Wecht shocked by Peterson sentence

| Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2004

The jurors who sentenced Scott Peterson to death for killing his wife and unborn child "went wild" and were "out of control," Pittsburgh forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril H. Wecht said Monday.

"Wow. Oh, my God," Wecht said as he watched the news broadcast of the jury's decision.

"I think that they clearly were in a vengeful mode," he said during a news conference a few minutes later. "They set upon a path, and this is what they were going to do."

Wecht, the Allegheny County coroner, said he was shocked by the death sentence because the case against Peterson was purely circumstantial.

"(There was a) complete absence of physical evidence," he said. "I never would have thought there would be a death penalty verdict.

"Somewhere along the line it is clear to me that not only was the jury lost to the defense, but the jury became hostile to the defense."

Absent any physical evidence, Wecht said, the jurors had to imagine Scott Peterson premeditated the murder, transported Laci Peterson's body to a dock, loaded it on a boat and dumped it in the sea -- all without leaving any physical evidence for investigators to find.

Given the advanced forensic techniques available to modern investigators, "This is not so easily accomplished," Wecht said.

Wecht made two visits to California, performing autopsies on the bodies of Laci Peterson and her unborn child, reviewing all the evidence with detectives and visiting Peterson's home and the site where the bodies were discovered. Wecht did not testify because there was no physical evidence to discuss.

"There wasn't anything to grab hold of," he said. "There wasn't enough to go on."

Wecht said Peterson has strong grounds for an appeal, particularly because two jurors were dismissed late in the trial.

"There is going to be a new trial," he told reporters. "I will wager you will all be grandparents -- every one of you here -- before Scott Peterson is executed."

Wecht said he wonders how the jurors can justify their decision to themselves or their God.

"I'd like to be sitting next to them in their churches in 10 days," he said.

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