Attorneys for convicted murderer Scott Peterson succeeded in getting him off of death row, and on Wednesday, Peterson appeared in a Redwood City courtroom to be resentenced to life without parole. But the hearing was far from rote.
Members of the family of Laci Peterson, the pregnant wife of Scott Peterson who was found dead in San Francisco Bay after going missing before Christmas in 2002, gathered to make emotional, anger-filled statements in the courtroom today. As the Associated Press reports, Laci's mother, Sharon Rocha, was one of the first people to speak, addressing her daughter's killer directly.
"Scott, 19 years ago today, you were in the midst of planning Laci's murder," Rocha said. "I still feel the grief every day, after 19 years. Your evil, self-centered, unforgivable selfish act ended two beautiful souls. And for what reason? There was no reason other than that you just didn't want them anymore. You didn't want a baby nor the responsibility of being a father. You're a coward."
Rocha said she had dreams of Laci, and she has visions of what her grandson Conner, who would be 18 years old now, would have been like.
Laci's sister, Amy Rocha, also spoke to Peterson directly in court, per the Chronicle. "There have been so many so many special occasions that Laci probably would have been here for," Amy Rocha said. "It makes me sick to be here today in front of you again. Even though the death penalty has been lifted, you will still be punished in this life and after."
Peterson's attorneys successfully had his death penalty sentence overturned in August 2020, after arguing for years both on the merits of the case against him, and on procedural mistakes made by the original judge in jury selection that resulted in a bias toward capital punishment. San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Anne-Christine Massullo subsequently ruled in September that Peterson would not be tried again, but that he would be re-sentenced.
Prosecutors in Stanislaus County, where the murder presumably took place (in Modesto, where the Petersons lived), declined to seek the death penalty a second time, though they initially indicated they would.
The new sentence was made official Wednesday, after Peterson, 49, was relocated last week from San Quentin's death row, where he's resided since his 2004 conviction, to the San Mateo County Jail. Massullo handed down the sentence, giving Peterson life without the possibility of parole for the death of Laci Peterson, and a concurrent 15-year sentence for the death of their unborn son.
Laci Peterson was last seen alive on Christmas Eve 2002, on a day when Scott Peterson took an odd trip to the Berkeley Marina to go fishing, and her disappearance gained national attention. The story only grew in notoriety after it was discovered that Scott Peterson was carrying on an affair with massage therapist Amber Frey, to whom he had lied about whether he was married.
Following the discovery of Laci Peterson's remains, and those of her eight-month-old fetus, in the Bay near a Richmond fishing spot frequented by Scott Peterson, he was arrested in La Jolla with a packed car that appeared ready for a trip to Mexico.
Peterson, and some of his family members, have continued to maintain his innocence. But an overwhelming amount of circumstantial evidence, and a hair belonging to Laci Peterson that was found attached to pliers in Scott Peterson's fishing boat, led to his conviction. Judge Massullo ruled that there was not enough new evidence suggesting his innocence to warrant a new trial.