George Peck successfully prosecuted dozens of homicide cases in Nassau County, but it was perhaps his last trial as an assistant district attorney for which he became best known.
In 1995, a jury convicted Long Island Rail Road massacre killer Colin Ferguson on six murder counts and 19 attempted murder counts at a trial in which Peck ended his closing argument by thundering: “God, the suffering he caused!”
Colleagues recalled that case and others Thursday as Peck’s family planned a farewell for the longtime prosecutor and judge following his death a day earlier at age 75.
A few months short of retirement, the state Supreme Court justice fell ill with an infection in August after a routine medical procedure, according to his daughter Barbara Peck, 50, of Williston Park.
She said her father died Wednesday night in his sleep while hospitalized.
Hofstra Law Professor Fred Klein, another former longtime Nassau homicide prosecutor, said Peck had been his supervisor and had taught him “so much about how to put a case together, how to present it to a jury and also just how to conduct myself as a prosecutor.”
When it came to the Ferguson trial, “It was just such a traumatic case for everybody,” Klein recalled.
But he said Peck never lost his edge in the courtroom.
“He didn’t let the seriousness and the tragedy get to him. He was still professional,” Klein said.
Born on Dec. 12, 1942, in New York City, Peck grew up in Williston Park and never left. With his wife of 52 years, Patricia Ellen Peck, a social worker who retired from the county’s probation department, he had three children and five grandchildren.
Peck attended Herricks High School, then Hofstra University as an undergraduate, St. John’s University School of Law for his law degree and later New York University School of Law, where he picked up a master of laws degree.
He joined the district attorney’s office in 1968 after a year as an insurance lawyer. Other than a year away as a judge’s law secretary, he worked as a prosecutor until 1995, rising to deputy chief of the Major Offense Bureau.
Later in 1995, Peck became a local district court judge, before becoming a county court judge in 2002 and a state Supreme Court justice in 2012.
Though short in stature — “he claimed he was" 5 feet, 8 inches tall, said his daughter Barbara — Peck had no shortage of personality and was a quirky and notable presence in the halls of Nassau’s courts for decades.
Acting state Supreme Court Justice Christopher Quinn, who worked with Peck as a fellow judge in district court and county court, called Peck “truly an independent jurist.”
His judicial tenure wasn’t without some controversy. In 2014, Peck was reassigned to preside over civil cases after years of handling criminal cases following a probe into what sources said were sexual harassment allegations involving his former law clerk — allegations the clerk, who resigned, denied.
Nassau County Administrative Judge Thomas Adams said Thursday that Peck had served Nassau’s residents “with great pride and integrity.”
Garden City attorney Joseph Lo Piccolo, who headed Nassau’s Criminal Courts Bar Association in 2012 when the organization gave Peck an award he had relished, said the judge was known for “doing the right thing regardless of any public perception or potential backlash.”
Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas paid tribute to Peck’s public service both “as a dedicated prosecutor working tirelessly to do justice and keep Nassau County safe” and as a judge.
When not working, Peck often escaped to his family’s second home in Mattituck. An avid fisherman, he took pleasure in piloting his unnamed 22-foot Grady White vessel on East End waters and joked that every spring he became “a clear and present danger to the fluke of the Long Island Sound.”
In addition to his wife and daughter Barbara, Peck’s survivors include his son, William Peck of Manhattan, and daughter Rachel Szalkowski of Westbury.
A wake is scheduled for Monday at Weigand Brothers Funeral Home in Williston Park before a private burial Tuesday.