Scott Peterson back in court as LA Innocence Project takes on case

Posted at 4:35 PM, March 12, 2024

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. (Court TV) — Scott Peterson was back in court today via Zoom for a brief status conference hearing. The convicted killer is now being represented by the Los Angeles Innocence Project. Peterson appeared remotely from Mule Creek State Prison while LA Innocence Project attorneys and the Stanislaus County District Attorney appeared in-person.

Scott Peterson appears at status hearing via Zoom

Scott Peterson appears at a status hearing on March 12, 2024 via Zoom from Mule Creek State Prison in California. (Court TV)

It’s been nearly 20 years since Peterson was convicted of murdering his pregnant wife, Laci, and the couple’s unborn son, Conner. Now, Peterson is back before a judge with what his legal team says is new evidence.

Peterson, now 51, was initially sentenced to death, but that punishment was overturned in 2020. He’s now serving a life sentence, but has steadfastly insisted on his innocence this entire time.

MORE: New evidence could exonerate Scott Peterson 20 years later

Earlier this year, the Los Angeles Innocence Project took up Peterson’s case, requesting to look at some of the evidence used in his trial. Today’s hearing marked the LAIP attorneys’ first court appearance as Peterson’s representatives. They filed motions for DNA testing, post-conviction discovery and sealed court records.

At today’s hearing, attorneys with the LA Innocence Project made a formal request to independently DNA test multiple items, including a carpet fragment and a blood-stained mattress found in a burned-out van not far from the Peterson home around the time Laci went missing in 2002.

The LAIP, which maintains Peterson’s constitutional rights were violated, wants the opportunity to find out if Laci’s DNA is on that mattress. They say technology now exists that wasn’t there 20 years ago. The LAIP’s 900-page filing asks, among other questions: Whose blood is in the van and why was it burned?

MORE: Revisiting the Scott Peterson case 20 years later

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

Court TV Anchor Ted Rowlands, who worked for KTVU in the San Francisco Bay Area at the time, was the first reporter on the scene when the story broke. Rowlands explained that while the LAIP claims it has new evidence, the situation is more akin to new interpretations of existing evidence, as the information in the filing was disclosed in discovery but never brought up at trial.

For example, multiple burglaries happened in the Petersons’ neighborhood around the time Laci, 27, disappeared. Also, Laci was reported missing after failing to return from taking her dog for a walk on Christmas Eve 2002. Several neighbors came forward to say they had spotted Laci and her Golden Retriever on their walk but were never called as witnesses.

At the time of his 2004 trial, Peterson’s attorneys were working off of their argument that no physical evidence tied the defendant to the murder and felt that the testimony of neighbors was unnecessary. The LAIP says this was a mistake.

There is still no physical evidence linking Peterson to the crime. Circumstantial evidence is what did him in. While both sides have agonized for decades over how Peterson killed his wife without leaving a speck of evidence behind, the prosecution was not obligated to prove how he did it.

WATCH: Ted Rowlands Revisits the Scott Peterson Case 20 Years Later

Scott Peterson preliminary hearing

Scott Peterson, left, sits with his attorney Mark Geragos, right, during arraignment proceedings in Stanislaus Superior Court in Modesto, Calif., Wednesday morning, Dec. 3, 2003. (AP Photo/Bart Ah You, Pool)

The circumstantial evidence was staggering. For one thing, Peterson’s mistress came forward soon after Laci was reported missing. Amber Frey, who at the time didn’t know she was the other woman, cooperated with investigators, recorded their phone conversations and eventually testified against him. In one of her most damning statements, Frey recalled that two weeks before Laci even went missing, Peterson told her that it was going to be his first holiday without his wife.

Additionally, Laci and Conner’s bodies washed up in April 2003 off San Francisco Bay, which is the same body of water Peterson claimed to have been fishing in on Christmas Eve 2002.

Today’s hearing concluded with the judge scheduling three more hearings: A hearing on a motion to seal proceedings will take place on April 16, a hearing on the DNA testing motion is set for May 29, and a hearing regarding discovery proceedings will take place on July 15. Peterson is expected to appear again at all three via Zoom.