Bloody mattress in burned van: Why Scott Peterson wants new DNA tests

Posted at 2:13 PM, May 9, 2024

MODESTO, Calif. (Court TV) — There’s more movement in Scott Peterson‘s bid for a new trial. Earlier this week, Peterson’s attorneys filed a response to the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s opposition to their request that certain items undergo DNA testing.

Scott Peterson appears in court via Zoom on April 16, 2024.

Scott Peterson appears in court via Zoom on April 16, 2024. He is now being represented by the Los Angeles Innocence Project, which is working to exonerate Peterson. (Court TV)

The Los Angeles Innocence Project, which took on Peterson’s case back in January, insists their client is innocent. Peterson is currently serving life without parole for the murders of his wife, Laci, and the couple’s unborn son. Laci, 27, was eight months pregnant when she disappeared on Christmas Eve 2002. Her body, and that of the fetus she was carrying, washed up off San Francisco Bay in April 2003.

On Tuesday, Peterson’s defense team specifically asked to test a blood stained mattress found in a burned out orange van located near the Petersons’ Modesto, California home the morning after Laci’s disappearance. Court TV has obtained a copy of last month’s 337 page filing in which the DA argued that the items the defense wants tested have either already been tested, are unrelated to the case, or that the burden to have them retested has not been met.

Regarding the mattress, however, the LAIP argues that in the past, only a sample of the mattress was tested. They want the entire mattress tested, and they say advancements in DNA technology merit that request.

Peterson’s attorneys want to explore the possibility that a connection exists between Laci’s death, a December 2002 burglary at the house across the street from the Petersons, and a Christmas Day van fire in another part of town. They want the opportunity to explore the theory that Laci was abducted and taken away in an orange van while walking her dog on December 24, 2002 — the time during which Peterson, now 51, has always insisted he was fishing at the Berkeley Marina. In their initial filing in January, the LAIP suggested that the burglars could have snatched Laci.

L to R: Laci Peterson, Scott Peterson (FILE)

MORE: Revisiting the Scott Peterson case 20 years later

The fact that the Petersons’ neighbors were robbed is not new information, but the LAIP argues that their theory deserves a fresh look, due to improvements in DNA testing techniques. Other items Peterson’s defense wants DNA tested are duct tape from Laci’s pants, a Target shopping bag, and a set of pliers found on Peterson’s fishing boat.

A hearing to address the DNA request is scheduled for May 29. An additional case hearing is set for July 15. Last month, the judge dismissed Peterson’s motion to seal proceedings in the case.

Peterson has never wavered from his claims that he is innocent. He was sentenced to death back in 2005, but that sentence was overturned in 2020 when the California Supreme Court ruled that potential jurors on Peterson’s case were improperly dismissed because they said they personally disagreed with the death penalty but would be willing to impose it by following facts and the law.

In 2021, Peterson was resentenced to life without parole. In 2022, he was moved off death row. That same year, Peterson’s bid for a new trial was unsuccessful when his defense argued he deserved a new trial based on allegations of juror misconduct. Peterson is currently housed at Mule Creek State Prison in San Mateo County.