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California Supreme Court Orders New Review Of Scott Peterson's Murder Convictions

A trial judge in San Mateo County Superior Court will have to determine whether Scott Peterson, convicted of murdering his wife Laci and the couple's unborn son, should be granted a new trial because of juror misconduct.

By Jill Sederstrom
The Scott Peterson Case, Explained

Scott Peterson’s murder conviction for killing his wife and unborn child will be reexamined following a ruling by the California Supreme Court.

The ruling, which came down Wednesday, ordered a trial judge in San Mateo County Superior Court to review the convictions to determine whether Peterson should be granted a new trial due to possible prejudicial juror misconduct in the case, according to The Los Angeles Times.

The juror misconduct claims center around a juror who failed to report that she had once been harassed by the ex-girlfriend of her boyfriend and had feared for the life of her unborn child.

“Juror No. 7 committed prejudicial misconduct by not disclosing her prior involvement with other legal proceedings, including but not limited to being the victim of a crime,” the order, obtained by the news outlet, read.

The ruling is in response to a petition for habeas corpus filed by Peterson’s legal defense team in 2015, which claims that his right to a fair and impartial jury had been violated, The Modesto Bee reports.

In August, the California Supreme Court overturned Peterson’s death sentence in the case after determining that the trial judge “made a series of clear and significant errors in jury selection” and “undermined” his right to an impartial jury during the penalty phase of the trial, according to a decision obtained by Oxygen.com.

Neither decision overturned his conviction, but the state supreme court’s latest decision will send the case back to the San Mateo County Superior Court for review and could result in a new trial for Peterson, whose case captured national attention after his pregnant wife Laci disappeared in December 2002.

Scott Peterson Ap

Peterson’s defense team claimed in the habeas appeal that Juror Richelle Nice had been unfairly biased and wanted to “punish him for a crime of harming his unborn child—a crime that she personally experienced when (the assailant) threatened her life and the life of her unborn child,” according to The Modesto Bee.

Nice had been pregnant in 2000 when her then-boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend vandalized his car and kicked in their door.

Nice filed a lawsuit to secure a temporary restraining order against the woman claiming that she was “in fear for her unborn child.”

The ex-girlfriend was later convicted and sentenced to one week in jail, according to Peterson’s attorneys.

Yet when jurors were asked whether they had ever been the victim of a crime or involved in a lawsuit, Nice—who had initially been named an alternate in the trial—responded no to both questions.

Nice told The Modesto Bee in an interview in 2017 that she did not lie her way onto the jury and also denied trying to seek vengeance against Peterson.

She said her own experience was nothing like the allegations against Scott Peterson.

“(The ex-girlfriend) never threatened to kill me, to kill my unborn child, to beat me up,” she said at the time. “When I filled out that questionnaire, my situation never came into my mind because it was not similar at all.”

In response to Peterson’s petition, supervising deputy attorney general Donna Provenzano also argued that the incident did not compare to the murders.

“For (Peterson) to equate his actions with those of (Nice’s assailant, who was convicted of vandalism) borders on the ridiculous; the two events are not remotely similar,” Provenzano wrote in a brief, according to the paper.

Peterson has continued to maintain his innocence since his conviction in 2004.

Laci Peterson, 27, was eight months pregnant with the couple’s first child when she disappeared from the couple’s home on Christmas Eve in 2002.

Scott Peterson told authorities he had gone fishing for the day in Berkeley and returned to find his wife missing, according to The Associated Press.

The case garnered intense media scrutiny, which only continued to grow after it was revealed that Scott Peterson had been having an affair with massage therapist Amber Frey at the time of Laci's disappearance.

Laci’s remains and the body of the couple’s unborn baby washed up along the shore of the San Francisco Bay four months after she disappeared.

The remains were found less than two miles from where Scott had told authorities he had gone fishing the day his wife vanished, according to the Modesto Bee.  

A jury convicted Peterson in 2004 of first-degree murder in Laci’s death and second-degree murder in the death of their unborn son Conner.