You know who I'm talking about. Scott Peterson. A jury found him guilty of killing his wife, Laci, and their unborn son. Then that jury decided he should be sentenced to death, to be killed by the state of California by lethal injection. Jurors said they chose death over life in prison because throughout the trial, Peterson showed no remorse at all.
Peterson's case was not at all like what you see on TV's most popular show, "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation." You know, they always find something that neatly identifies the criminal in one hour (with commercials, of course).
You should know that the police automatically suspect the spouse or partner when something "happens" to the other person in the relationship. And they are often right. According to the FBI, more than half the murders reported last year were not by strangers, but by relatives, friends or acquaintances.
Peterson's story to police was that Laci, eight months pregnant, disappeared on Christmas Eve while taking their dog for a walk, and he had spent the day fishing.
Police investigators, trying to build a case against Peterson, could find no physical evidence, no weapons, no blood to match his DNA, no witnesses. Just compelling circumstantial evidence. Circumstances suggest he was the killer.
At his trial, prosecutors offered this theory: Peterson killed his wife in their Modesto home, then drove 90 miles and dumped her body in the San Francisco Bay. It washed ashore about four months after she was reported missing. The remains of the baby were found soon after. Both bodies turned up just a few miles from where Peterson said he had been fishing. The bodies of mother and son were so decomposed, the forensic experts couldn't even determine the cause of death.
It was a horrible crime. Prosecutors told the jury Peterson wanted to get rid of his wife because he didn't want to be a husband and father. He wanted to be free, a bachelor again. In fact, a woman came forward and told police that Peterson was her boyfriend. He never told her he was married.
When the jury voted unanimously for death, cheers went up outside the courtroom where a huge crowd had gathered. But not everybody is happy with those verdicts. A large number of Americans are opposed to the death penalty, or capital punishment.
They argue that the taking of a life is wrong under any circumstance, whether the death is caused by another person or by the government.
The United States is the only Western industrialized nation in the world that still executes people. In all, 118 countries have abolished the death penalty in favor of life in prison. Other countries still killing criminals are China, Iran and Vietnam.
Some Americans opposed to the death penalty cite biblical quotes such as "Thou shalt not kill" and "Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord." For even the most violent criminals imaginable, they prefer life in prison without parole.
Others fear innocent people could be put to death. They point out the fact that 117 convicts have been released from death row -- many of them because of DNA testing, which was unavailable years ago. Sixty-one percent of the former prisoners were minorities, most of whom could not afford good lawyers when they were prosecuted.
Still, a recent Harris Poll shows that more than two-thirds of Americans support the death penalty, even though they agree it is no deterrent. It will not stop people from committing evil crimes. They believe if you take a life, you should lose your life. Simple as that. Some of the more extreme supporters would even put to death doctors who perform abortions.
Peterson's lawyer says he will file motions appealing the conviction. But most legal authorities think Peterson will never be executed and will probably die in prison. California already has the highest death row population in the nation; 641 inmates are scheduled to die. The last prisoner to be executed in California was in 2002. The man spent 20 years on death row because of the backlog in the legal system. He had to wait for the state to appoint a lawyer to take his case.
So while some people take comfort in knowing Peterson faces execution by the needle, chances are he'll live a long time in San Quentin prison.