Long-ago convicted murderer Scott Peterson, who has been trying to appeal his death sentence for the last nine years and has maintained his innocence throughout the past two decades, will not have the pleasure of a new trial. But a judge ruled Wednesday that he should be re-sentenced to life without parole.
Following a ruling last year by the California Supreme Court that upheld Peterson's murder conviction but reversed his death sentence, there's been loads of chatter among internet sleuths — and some members of Peterson's family — proclaiming his innocence and gunning for him to be tried again. That wasn't likely to be in the cards, and now Judge Anne-Christine Massullo has ruled that there isn't enough new evidence to justify a new trial, and Peterson will be re-sentenced in November, which will get him off San Quentin's Death Row where he has resided for 17 years.
Convicted in 2004 and given the death penalty, Peterson remains one of the most high-profile murderers still alive and serving time. The case of his wife Laci Peterson's 2002 disappearance made national headlines before her body was even found four months later — and likely provided some inspiration for Gillian Flynn's 2012 novel Gone Girl.
Laci Peterson, eight months pregnant, went missing on Christmas Eve 2002, the same day that her husband made a strange, 90-mile trek from their home in Modesto to San Francisco Bay to go "fishing."
Four months later, the body of Laci Peterson and the couple's unborn child were found in the Bay near Richmond, and Scott Peterson immediately became a suspect. He had by that point moved to San Diego, ostensibly to be closer to family. But on the day of his arrest near a La Jolla golf course, Peterson's car was stuffed with things like he might be planning to flee to Mexico. Also, infamously, he had died his hair blond, and was carrying 12 tablets of Viagra.
In the months after Laci Peterson disappeared, investigators learned that Scott had had multiple extramarital affairs, including one with massage therapist Amber Frey, whom he had just met one month before Laci was killed. When, weeks before the murder, Frey confronted Peterson about her suspicion that he was married, Peterson told her that his wife was dead.
Frey later cooperated with police and agreed to let them record telephone calls she had with Peterson, hoping to get him to confess. At least one of those recordings was used in Peterson's trial.
Peterson began his death penalty appeal back in 2012, when his attorney Cliff Gardner argued everything from the judge making evidentiary mistakes to the jury being biased toward the death penalty due to the pubilcity surrounding the case.
But the thing that ultimately won Peterson a new sentence was the fact that the original judge in the penalty phase allowed jurors to be rejected by the prosecution if they expressed an objection to capital punishment. The CA Supreme Court ruled that the judge "made a series of clear and significant errors in jury selection that, under long-standing United States Supreme Court precedent, undermined Peterson’s right to an impartial jury at the penalty phase."
Interestingly, Scott Peterson's name came up just yesterday in connection with the Kristin Smart murder case. Attorneys for defendant Paul Flores suggest that Scott and Laci Peterson, who were both students at Cal Poly at the same time as Flores and Smart, were also attending the frat party on the May night in 1996 where Smart was last seen alive. Evidence of that has not yet been presented.