Is Scott Peterson on death row? The convicted killer’s sentence was reversed by the California supreme court in August 2020, and in May 2021, a California district attorney said in a court filing that she won’t seek a new death sentence.
Peterson’s trial for the murder of wife Laci Peterson and their unborn child, Conner, was determined to have “a series of clear and significant errors” during juror selection. The California justices ruled the death sentence couldn’t stand because potential jurors were excluded after saying they disagreed with the death penalty.
In an opinion of the court by Justice Kruger, the judge argued jurors failed to be impartial when sentencing Peterson to the death penalty during his 2004 trial. While justices agree a juror could be dismissed based on their view on capital punishment, a juror cannot be dismissed “merely because he or she has expressed opposition to the death penalty as a general matter.”
Additionally, Kruger stated the trial court judge was wrong to dismiss prospective jurors based on their opposition to the death penalty, since there was no indication their view would prevent them from coming to a fair conclusion.
“We are grateful for the California supreme court’s unanimous recognition that if the state wishes to put someone on death, it must proceed to trial only with a fairly selected jury,” Peterson’s lawyer, Cliff Gardner, wrote in a statement to In Touch at the time. “Prosecutors may not rely on jury specifically organized by the state to return a verdict of death. And while we are disappointed that such a biased jury selection results in a reversal of only the death sentence, we look forward to the court’s review of the new forensic and eyewitness evidence of innocence presented in Mr. Peterson’s separate and still pending state habeas petition.”
Peterson maintains his innocence, and a judge is considering whether to grant a new trial because a juror failed to disclose that she had sought a restraining order in 2000 against her boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend. She said in seeking the order that she “feared for her unborn child,” according to the Los Angeles Times. The judge must decide if that amounted to juror misconduct, and if so, whether a new trial is warranted.
In December 2002, Laci, 27, went missing while she was eight months pregnant, and her body was found four months later. While it was impossible to determine her exact cause of death, an autopsy revealed there was a “significant cut” made to the fetus’ body.
Peterson was convicted of two counts of murder for the death of his wife in November 2004, including first-degree murder with special circumstances and second-degree murder for the couple’s unborn child. He is currently serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
As of June 2021, however, Gardner feels “hopeful” that his client will be released from prison, he exclusively told In Touch. When asked if there’s any chance Peterson will get out, he said matter-of-factly, “Yes.”
Peterson’s next hearing is scheduled for June 18.
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