TODAY | September 12, 2012
>>> now to a case that's gripped this face. it's been more than seven years since scott peterson was sentenced to death for the murders of his pregnant wife laci and unborn child . now we're getting the first look at his life on death row at
california's san quentin prison: on christmas eve in 2002 laci peterson was reported missing from her modesto, california home, nearly eight months pregnant at the time. laci 's husband scott peterson said he went fishing that day in san francisco , and when he returned home laci was gone. initial searches failed to find laci , but in april 2003 the remains of her unborn son washed ashore near where peterson told police he had gone fishing. laci 's remains were found a day later. peterson was arrested and charged with two counts of murder. at the time of his arrest he was carrying thousands of dollars in cash and several credit cards . he had also changed his appearance by dying his hair blond and growing a goatee. after a six-month trial a jury convicted peterson of killing laci and her unborn son and sentenced him to death , although peterson has always maintained his innocence. he remains on death row at san quentin state prison in california , and now these never-before-seen photos of peterson from just last june show a glimpse of his life inside. living at the largest death row in the country, peterson has his own cell identical to this one and is reportedly allowed to spend up to five hours a day outside of it, exercising or shooting hoops with other inmates. in july peterson 's attorneys filed an appeal to the california supreme court alleging he did not have a fair trial . the appeal is expected to take years to resolve. nancy mulane is the journalist who took those photos of scott peterson and her book is called "life after murder." good to see you.
>> good morning.
>> i want to emphasize right off the bat. your book has nothing to do with scott peterson so how did you end up in san quentin and get access to death row ?
>> i've been going inside san quentin since 2007 as a report because the first time i went inside san quentin , i was left alone in a room with men who had committed murder. it was a mistake. i wasn't supposed to be in the room, but i was by the public information officer, and the men i met in that room that day, men serving life sentences , unlike scott peterson who is serving a death sentence for committing murder.
>> these men were serving life sentences with the possibility of parole.
>> we want to talk about them in just a second. you go inside death row on that occasion. you have a camera obviously. you were allowed to take picture. what were the reactions from the inmates on death row ? were they opposed to that? did they embrace you? how did they feel about you being there in.
>> it's very interesting because there had been no reporters on death row in california in almost a decade, so it took me years to build a relationship with the california department of corrections where they actually trusted me to be the first reporter to go in.
>> and when you started taking these pictures, i think we should tell our viewers you did not realize were you capturing images of scott peterson .
>> i didn't. it wasn't until two months later that i was actually reviewing the photographs, and i realized, oh, i think these are scott peterson .
>> but you then did get a chance to see what his life is like on a daily basis, how he interacts with other prisoners and where he lives. what would you like to shed light on?
>> well, i was inside death row for six hours. i interviewed inmates. i was allowed to walk up to their cell doors and talk to any inmates who were willing to talk to me. and it's a very confined environment. scott peterson is living in this -- in this tier, and then he has this one access to the roof.
>> you mentioned this tier. it's my understanding that he was moved to a more prisoner-friendly sex of death row , if there is such a thing.
>> well, there's a larger death row . there are three death rows in san quentin . one is the adjustment center where problem death row inmates live. then there's east bloc where almost 600 live, and then there's this environment where scott peterson lives, and that's where 68 prisoners live.
>> and did you have interaction with some of the prisoners. did you not speak to scott peterson .
>> i did in the.
>> he chose not to address new any way. these lifers that you actually wanted to write about, these are people who have committed these crimes, sentenced to life but with the chance of parole, though some have been paroled and some haven't, why do you think it's important we learn more about them?
>> well, i think the men that i've met -- when you commit a murder, you can be given a death sentence , life without parole , or you can be given a sentence of life with the possibility of parole. that's the population that i have actually been studying for the last five years and reporting on. and what i have found is this is a population we don't know in prisons. you know, these are prisoners who are sentenced with the possibility of parole. that means we as a society said you have the potential to change, but then they go behind the prison walls, and we never see them.
>> and for those who are paroled, the challenges they face when they get back to a somewhat normal life , are what?
>> well, they first have to be found suitable for parole. that means they have to go before a parole board , and only 10% in california are found each year eligible to be released. and even if they are found suitable for parole, in california the governor can reverse parole board decisions 150 days later, so over the last 22 years since we've had that law, we've seen somewhere between 75% and 99% of all parole board decisions be reversed by the governor, so getting out of california on a life with parole sentence, you actually have a greater chance of dying in prison on that sentence.
>> but when they do get out, that's the population that i've been looking at. so my book, i wrote a book "life after murder," and it looks at this population that we don't know in the united states . we don't know what people who commit a murder really are like after they have done the time, after they have done everything we've asked them to do.
>> and would i say we need to know more about that. thank you, nancy, for sharing that.