On the same day Scott Peterson was sentenced to death by lethal injection for the murder of his wife, Laci and unborn son, Connor, in Redwood City, California, a jury in Southern California found actor Robert Blake not guilty of the murder of former lover Donna Lee Bakely. Blake was also acquitted on one charge of soliciting the murder of Ms. Bakely. On a second charge of soliciting the murder of Bakely, the jury locked 11-1 in favor of not-guilty.
I doubt very much that the prosecution will retry Blake for the second murder solicitation in view of that jury finding.
Scott Peterson was convicted of murder on virtually no hard evidence. He claims to have gone fishing at the Berkeley Marina the day his 8-month pregnant wife disappeared. Four months later, the body of Laci and her unborn son washed ashore not far from where Peterson said he went fishing that day. That would normally appear to support a slam-dunk conclusion that Peterson murdered his wife, took her body to the Berkeley Marina, where he weighted it down and dumped it in the water.
But the Modesto Police investigating the case immediately revealed to the media and public where Peterson said he went fishing that day, allowing anyone who may have kidnapped Laci to know exactly where to dump her body. It is on that fact alone that enough reasonable doubt existed for the Peterson jury to acquit Peterson.
But they didn't. In fact, that jury topped it all off by recommending Peterson be put to death, and the judge presiding over the case honored the jury's recommendation the exact same day Blake won his freedom.
In the Blake case, two witnesses came forward and testified that Blake solicited them to kill Bakely. Blake was in the immediate vicinity of Bakely when she was shot to death in her car outside a restaurant they were leaving. Blake went back inside the restaurant where he claimed to have left his gun, retrieved it, and came back outside the restaurant to find Bakely shot to death - by another weapon. The jury found Blake not guilty!
The Peterson case was rife with reasonable doubt and deficient in evidence. There was no crime scene. Not a scintilla of physical evidence was found anywhere, including the home Scott and Laci lived in. No blood, and no signs of a struggle. The only "evidence" the prosecution came up with was Peterson's affair with Amber Frey and a single hair matching Laci's was found on fishing pliers Peterson had in his boat. The prosecution in the Peterson case didn't have anything else to go on except Peterson's persistent lies and what they considered to be his odd behavior.
Married men on average cheat on their wives 50% of the time, and a man who is living with a woman is going to have her hair all over him and his gear. I know I do! On average, married men who are having affairs outside the marriage don't kill their wives, and Peterson hadn't been fooling around with Amber long enough to fall madly in love with her.
On the other hand, the Blake case was rife with motive. Blake and Bakely were definitely not getting along for a number of reasons, and she had born Blake a child during their relationship that they were fighting over. No such evidence even suggested that kind of discord in the Peterson family.
So what do we have here? What we have are two juries that if switched, would probably have convicted Blake and acquitted Peterson!
Peterson will be transferred to San Quentin Prison's Death Row within 48 hours. Blake will be eating pasta and hoisting a few beers with friends all night.
In all fairness, there was enough reasonable doubt in both cases to cause a responsible jury to acquit. But the jurors picked in the Peterson case were a sorry bunch indeed. They went on gut and emotion instead of disciplining themselves to examine the evidence before them, unfettered by personal prejudices, and I had to laugh when I heard two of them say they just had to be "certain" of Peterson's guilt when there was no way the evidence allowed them to be.
The Peterson jurors used the same "certainty" the Sam Shepard jurors used to convict him of murdering his wife back in 1954. There was a bloody crime scene in that case. I can't remember if the Shepard case involved an affair or not, but I seem to recall it did. Either way it doesn't matter. The jury convicted Shepard because in their puny little minds, he HAD to have done it, just like the Peterson jury concluded. But when DNA forensic methods were perfected, it was discovered that the semen of a handyman who had worked at the Shepard house previously, was found in the vagina of Mrs. Shepard.
It is good that such important evidence was preserved in the Shepard case, but the damage had already been done. Sam Shepard was released from prison after serving ten years of a life sentence. He was no longer eligible to be a doctor, so he hit the bottle hard and eventually killed himself by it. The DNA evidence that exonerated Shepard was secured by his son, who never gave up his faith that his father did not murder his mother, even after his father's death.
I don't know if Scott Peterson murdered Laci or not. He might have, but if he did, he is the absolute luckiest amateur murderer who ever committed the crime, because the lack of physical evidence and no eye-witnesses just leaves me aghast that he is now awaiting the needle on California's Death Row.
If there ever was a recipe for how an innocent man ends up executed in America, the Peterson case is it - whether Peterson is guilty or not.
the point so many potential and experienced jurors miss: It doesn't matter
what you think, and it doesn't matter what the prosecutor tells you. You
have a solemn duty to find a person innocent unless and until the evidence
and witnesses provide you with incontrovertible proof sufficient to remove
all rational doubt. You don't have the luxury of speculation or emotion
when deciding another human being's fate. God is the only one who has
the capability of knowing exactly what happened and by who, and when the
evidence just isn't there, you leave that to God!