SACRAMENTO—The death sentence handed out to Scott Peterson, 47, who was charged with the murders of his wife, Laci, and their unborn child in 2002, was overturned by the California Supreme Court on Monday, August 24.
The unanimous vote upheld the conviction against Peterson, but the court said prosecutors could retry Peterson on the death penalty charge if they wished to do so.
Justice Leondra Kruger wrote the statement for the California Supreme Court that read:
“The trial court 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.”
The court dismissed a number of jurors in Peterson’s trial, but the judge should have permitted them to be interviewed and consulted, Justice Leondra Kruger noted.
Aside from the removal of jurors that have been deemed partisan, Peterson argued that he was stripped of a fair trial because of the attention it faced before the legal proceedings began.
Peterson’s trial was moved to Modesto from San Mateo County, a distance of over 90 miles. The court dismissed Peterson’s debate regarding the publicity and fairness of his trial.
On December 24, 2002, Laci disappeared four weeks before she was supposed to give birth. Scott told authorities that he had been fishing in Berkeley on the day Laci went missing from their Modesto home.
Laci’s remains, along with her unborn son, washed up on the shores of San Francisco Bay four months later, just miles from where Scott told officials he was fishing the day of her disappearance.
Police later arrested Scott in San Diego County after Amber Frey, his massage therapist who he was dating at the time, gave police secret recordings of the couple’s conversations. He had told Frey that his wife was dead, even though the two started seeing each other a month before Laci’s disappearance.