Peterson: 'I Have No Disgrace and No Shame' Before being sentenced to prison in 1989, Larry Peterson told a New Jersey court that "the system makes mistakes." Peterson had been found guilty of murder — a conviction overturned after he spent years behind bars.
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Peterson: 'I Have No Disgrace and No Shame'

In March 1989, Larry Peterson was convicted of the murder and sexual assault of Jacqueline Harrison. (That conviction was overturned 16 years later.) Before being sentenced on Oct. 12, 1989, to 40 years in prison, Peterson made the statement below in a New Jersey court. As he spoke, the victim's sister, Patricia Harrison, began asking him to "tell the truth" about her sister's death.

Larry Peterson: First of all, Your Honor, I would like to thank Lord God of heaven and Earth and the opportunity to have a chance to speak, being that since I came into this courtroom, I haven't been able to say anything except when I was asked, and here at sentence, certain things that I was told not to say.

Your Honor, it was a horrible crime that was committed, but I have no disgrace and no shame. I only have sorrow for the Harrison family, not for myself. For sometime in every man's life, he's going to suffer one way or another, regardless of his philosophical or his melancholy.

Me, myself, I can't say I have any bitter or hatred for the time I've already spent being incarcerated. If — I truly found myself and the meaning of true, what life is, what life really stand for. Your Honor, I've been a lot of places here in this state, here in American and our of the United States, and out of all the places I've been incarcerated — I've been incarcerated in other countries, but coming back here to the United States, it means something, Your Honor.

But, when I look at myself and I look at the system, sure, the system makes mistakes. Everybody makes mistakes, but from the corruption that you got in — within the system — from the mistakes, the slander, the deceitfulness that was dealed on my behalf, thank God America wasn't built upon slander and deceit.

To the Harrison family, I've been instructed, asked and whatnot to say, because they said, "The Judge will make you sit down." Well, see, for me prison is not the problem. I hear everyday life is the problem. As far as me, I know who I'm around day in and day out. I know the type of people that it is that I'm around. But it's you that sit there, to the society, take notice to the wrong type of people you're around.

I did a lot of things in my life, but there's no other man you can find that has a greater heart that I have, a love that I have —

Patricia Harrison: Would you please just tell us the truth? Would you please?

Peterson: I did not kill —

Harrison: Would you do that for Jackie?

Peterson: I did not kill your sister.

Harrison: Just tell the truth. It's over. That's all.

Peterson: I cannot give you any more than what I'm giving you now. I did not kill your sister.

Harrison: Fine, Larry. You're a bastard. You're a liar.

Peterson: And, Your Honor, regardless of what you sentence me to, even if it's a million years, you can never sentence to me no more that the Lord can reverse —

Harrison: You're full of it, too.

Peterson: Your Honor, continue with your sentence.

Judge: All right. Thank you very much. You may be seated, Mr. Peterson.