Judge Denies Scott Peterson’s Motion for a New Trial

A California judge has rejected a claim that a juror in Scott Peterson’s trial for the murder of his pregnant wife was biased against him, allowing his conviction to stand.

Peterson was convicted in 2004 of the murder of his wife, Laci Peterson, who was eight months pregnant with their first child when she disappeared in late 2002. In April the following year, the bodies of the fetus and Laci Peterson were found on the shores of San Francisco Bay.

Scott Peterson was found guilty of first degree murder in his wife’s death and second degree murder in his son’s death. He was initially sentenced to death, but that was overturned in 2020 and he was resentenced the following year to life in prison.

As CrimeOnline previously reported,  Judge Anne-Christine Massullo considered the motion to grant Peterson a new trial because, as Peterson’s attorneys alleged, a juror lied on her jury questionnaire in order to be chosen for the jury.

“The Court concludes that Juror No. 7’s responses were not motivated by pre-existing or improper bias against Petitioner, but instead were the result of combination of good faith misunderstanding of the questions and sloppiness in answering,” Massullo wrote in her 55-page order released Tuesday morning, according to the Modesto Bee.

The juror in question — Richelle Nice — answered “no” to questions about whether she’d ever been the victim of a crime or involved in a lawsuit. But she failed to disclose that she obtained a restraining order against her boyfriend’s former girlfriend in 2000 for harassment.

Massullo concluded that Nice had given false answers to those questions said it didn’t make her prejudiced against Peterson. After listening to the juror’s testimony about her answers on the questionnaire, the judge rejected defense attorneys’ contention that Nice’s “traumatic life experiences” made her biased against Peterson. Instead, she said, the difficulties between her, her boyfriend, and the boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend “can be described, for lack of a better word, as a love triangle.”

Peterson’s family was angry about the ruling, with his sister-in-law Janey Peterson claiming that “the justice system has failed Scott, Laci, and Conner every step of the way.” Janey Peterson also accused the Modesto police of not “fighting to solve this crime” which they could have done, she said, “if they would have followed the evidence.”

Laci Peterson’s family was happy with the ruling. Laci’s mother, Sharon Rocha, issued a statement that the family of thankful for a decision “that confirms Scott DID recieve a fair trial.”

Scott Peterson still has multiple avenues for appeal.

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[Featured image: Scott Peterson/California Department of Corrections]