By Katie McLaughlin, Court TV
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — After spending nearly two decades behind bars for the murders of his pregnant wife and unborn child, Scott Peterson might get a new trial due to alleged juror misconduct. San Francisco County Superior Court Judge Anne-Christine Massullo will conduct a status conference hearing Wednesday.
27-year-old Laci Peterson was eight months pregnant when she was reported missing on Christmas Eve 2002. The child Laci was carrying, a boy, was to be named Conner. The bodies of Laci and Conner washed ashore on the San Francisco Bay in April 2003. Investigators believe Peterson dumped his wife’s body off his fishing boat.
In 2004, a jury sentenced Peterson to death for the murders of Laci and Conner. In August 2020, however, the death sentence was overturned by the California Supreme Court. In a separate opinion handed down two months later, the state court ordered the lower court to review allegations of juror misconduct.
The juror misconduct that could get Peterson a new trial pertains to a juror from Peterson’s 2004 double-murder trial named Richelle Nice. According to the Modesto Bee, appeal attorneys claim Nice lied about being the victim of a crime so she’d get picked to serve on the jury, and had been determined to convict Peterson. Judge Massullo’s decision hinges on whether she rules that Nice committed juror misconduct.
If Judge Massullo decides that Peterson’s habeas corpus petition is strong enough to merit a retrial for Peterson, she will announce it at the hearing. If not, she will schedule an evidentiary hearing during which new witnesses will testify.
Peterson, now 48, has been housed at San Quentin State Prison since his 2004 conviction. The former fertilizer salesman has maintained all along that he went fishing at the Berkeley Marina — which is on the same body of water where Laci and Conner’s remains were found — on December 24, 2002, and his wife was gone when he returned home.
Peterson’s defense attorney, Pat Harris, has stated that his team can prove that Laci was killed by burglars who were in the Peterson’s Modesto neighborhood on that Christmas Eve nearly 19 years ago.
Stanislaus County District Attorney Birgit Fladager has stated that she has no intention of re-seeking the death penalty for Peterson to spare Laci’s family the pain of a re-sentencing trial phase.