A judge on Tuesday denied convicted wife-murderer Scott Peterson a new trial, so pending any further appeals, we may not need to hear from Peterson again, at least for a while.
Scott Peterson has been on a mission to reassert his innocence and/or get off of death row for a number of years now. Following his 2004 conviction for the murder of wife Laci Peterson and their unborn child, we mostly hadn't seen nor heard from Peterson until, in August 2020, his attorney — noted death penalty appellate lawyer Cliff Gardner — won a ruling in the California Supreme Court that tossed out his death sentence. (Gardner had been working with Peterson since 2012, at which point he presented an argument that Peterson had been denied a fair trial due to "intense publicity" surrounding the case.)
In a 102-page ruling that rehashes all of the ample evidence in the case against Peterson, the court found that jurors had been improperly dismissed by the prosecution if they expressed discomfort with the death penalty — even if they said they would agree to impose it if the law demanded it.
While not granting Peterson a new trial, the ruling meant that Peterson would move off of San Quentin's death row, where he had lived for 18 years when he was transferred to a state prison in Sacramento in October 2022.
In the meantime, at this time last year, Peterson faced resentencing in San Mateo County, where his original 2004 trial took place. The family of Laci Peterson appeared to testify, with her sister, Amy Rocha, saying to Scott Peterson, "It makes me sick to be here today in front of you again."
One day after Peterson was resentenced to life without parole in December 2021, his attorneys filed a motion for a new trial, claiming juror misconduct. In particular, they focused their attention on Juror No. 7, Richelle Nice, whom lawyers had nicknamed "Strawberry Shortcake" during the trial because she had pink hair at the time. Peterson's lawyers argued that Nice had lied during voir dire about her own history with domestic violence, and that she would have never been put on the jury if she had told the truth.
Further, they presented over a dozen letters that Nice had written to Peterson in prison, long after the trial ended. The letters, she said, were the suggestion of a therapist as she was dealing with her own mental health issues circa 2005.
Judge Anne-Christine Massullo, who presided over Peterson's resentencing, heard the case for the new trial earlier this year, and Tuesday her ruling came out. As KRON4 reports, Peterson's motion has been denied — and now he'll be appealing to the California Supreme Court.
"The Court concludes that Juror No. 7's responses were not motivated by pre-existing or improper bias against [Peterson], but were the result of a combination of good faith misunderstanding of the questions and sloppiness in answering," the ruling reads. Massullo suggests that there is not evidence to prove that Nice had pre-judged the case — and there's a whole lot of other explanation in the 55-page ruling, which you can see here.
Laci Peterson disappeared on Christmas Eve 2002, and may have been killed either that morning or the night before. Scott Peterson had begun a fast-paced affair with a massage therapist named Amber Frey just one month earlier, and had lied to Frey first about not being married and then about being widowed. Further, he seemed to be lying to everyone at the time, telling family members that he was golfing on Christmas Eve, later telling police that he'd gone fishing instead — and before the remains of Laci and their unborn son, whom the family named Connor, were discovered in San Francisco Bay in April 2003, Peterson made a half dozen mysterious quick trips to the Berkeley Marina, all while wrapping up his affairs, moving to sell their house, and then packing a car to apparently escape to Mexico — he would ultimately be arrested, hair dyed and all stocked up on Viagra, in La Jolla.
In other words, beyond the physical evidence — like some of Laci's hair being found on some bloody pliers in Peterson's fishing boat — and the overwhelming circumstantial fact that she turned up dead right where he was the day she disappeared, the evidence to convict is insanely convincing and it's insane we're even still talking about this.
Still, some of Peterson's family members and some crazies on the internet continue to want to support his innocence, and attorneys like Gardner continue to see this as some kind of procedural feather in the caps. So, unless they try to take this to the Supreme Court and Alito decides it would be a swell idea to hear oral arguments, maybe this is almost over.