On Wednesday, a California judge sent a date to re-sentence Scott Peterson to life in prison, while word of whether a new trial will happen remains unanswered.
Stanislaus County District Attorney Birgit Fladager is mulling over whether Peterson should receive a new trial for the 2002 murders of his pregnant wife Laci Peterson and their unborn son, Conner. Until then, he will continue to serve a life sentence behind bars.
‘This is no longer a death penalty case,” Fladager said Wednesday, Fox News reports. “There is no way in the world this is anything other than a life without parole case.”
Last year, the California Supreme Court overturned Peterson’s death sentence after jurors who reportedly disagreed with the death penalty (but were willing to impose it) were dismissed from the case. The court stated there was enough circumstantial evidence to incriminate Peterson for murdering his wife and unborn son.
Massullo said that she expects the re-sentencing to last a few hours. The re-sentencing date has been scheduled for December 8.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, Laci was eight months pregnant when she disappeared from the Modesto home she shared with her husband. Peterson became the primary suspect after he was caught in numerous lies throughout the investigation. Investigators also uncovered he was having an affair with a woman he met at a party, Amber Frey.
The affair, according to prosecutors, was one of the most damning pieces of evidence against Peterson. Prosecutors argued that the affair alone didn’t automatically mean murder, but the information Peterson told Frey that made him appear culpable.
The defense, however, plans to focus on the prosecution’s alleged failure to prove when Laci Peterson died, how she died, and where she died. The defense will also provide documents that reportedly show that a mailman’s comments were “lost” and that several witnesses said they saw Laci alive after Peterson had already left their home to go fishing.
Further, habeas corpus documents are supposed to reveal evidence the jury was not allowed to hear during Peterson’s 2004 trial, and the evidence they were allowed to hear before convicting him of murder.
Another looming issue surrounding the retrial is if a woman lied to get a spot on the jury during Peterson’s trial.
During the 2004 trial, one of the jurors, Richelle Nice, committed “prejudicial misconduct” when she failed to disclose that she obtained a restraining order against her boyfriend’s former girlfriend in 2000 for harassment. The juror was pregnant at the time of the restraining order but denied any involvement in any crime-related incidents when asked during jury screening.
When all jurors were asked if they were ever victims of crime or involved in a lawsuit, Nice answered “no” to both questions.
“Juror No. 7 committed prejudicial misconduct by not disclosing her prior involvement with other legal proceedings, including but not limited to being the victim of a crime,” the order read.
Nice was initially an alternate juror, but she was given a seat when another juror was discharged. She later wrote a book about her experience.
According to Peterson’s attorneys, Nice “worked hard” to get on the jury, the Los Angeles Times reports. She reportedly claimed she was willing to serve despite her employer telling her she wouldn’t be paid for time missed from work.
In November 2004, Peterson was convicted of first-degree murder with special circumstances for killing Laci, and second-degree murder for killing Conner. He was sentenced to death.
Afterward, Nice reportedly wrote Peterson in prison and they ended up exchanging dozens of letters. Nice said she wrote Peterson at the request of her therapist and was shocked when he wrote her back.
“The spot where your beautiful wife washed ashore…and YOU robbed her & your beautiful son of a life with each other. What pushed you so far to the limit, where you felt that you needed to kill someone who not only loved you so much, but someone who was carring [sic] part of you inside her?” one of the letters, in part, read.
The defense plans to present the letters and the prejudicial misconduct up as part of the evidence against Nice.
“What she [the judge] has to decide is: Who credible here? Is it the defense counsel who says they were mislead and the juror lied to them?” former San Mateo County prosecutor Dean Johnson told KRON4. “Or is it the juror who is credible who says I thought I was answering the questions I was asked correctly?”
Although there was not much in the way of physical evidence, prosecutors amassed a collection of circumstantial evidence that convinced a San Mateo County jury that Peterson murdered his wife and son.
According to court documents, the following circumstantial evidence was strong enough to lead to Peterson’s conviction.
- Trained dogs picked up Laci’s scent at the Berkeley Marina, where Peterson claimed he went fishing when Laci vanished; her remains were later found close to the same area.
- Peterson visited the crime scene repeatedly.
- The tarp Peterson used on his fishing trip was covered in gasoline in his shed; gasoline is known to destroy DNA.
- Another tarp was found buried in fertilizer, also known to destroy DNA, according to Dr. Henry Lee, who testified at Peterson’s trial.
- Peterson told detectives he stopped fishing because it began to rain, although there was no precipitation at the Berkeley Marina on the day in question, according to the harbormaster.
- Peterson claimed Laci was watching a cooking segment on television when he left their home on December 24, but the show he referenced aired on December 23.
- Laci wore a diamond necklace, sapphire ring, and band each and every time she left her home. On the day she disappeared, the jewelry was left in her bedroom.
- After Laci and Conner’s remains were found, authorities caught Peterson close to the Mexico border with his hair and beard dyed blonde, an identification that didn’t belong to him, several credit cards, clothes, knives, four cell phones, a rope, camping supplies, and around $15,000 in cash.
Check back for updates.
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[Feature Photo: Laci Peterson & Scott Peterson/Family Handout; California Department of Corrections]