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Hearing To Determine If Scott Peterson Should Get A New Trial Is Set To Begin
The much-anticipated hearing for Scott Peterson is expected to center on whether a juror was biased because of her own undisclosed past with domestic violence.
The decision on whether Scott Peterson will get a new trial will hinge on a hearing starting Friday—almost two decades after the California fertilizer salesman was convicted of killing his pregnant wife Laci and tossing her body into the San Francisco Bay.
The much-anticipated proceeding is expected to center on whether a juror, nicknamed “Strawberry Shortcake” by the media because of her bright red hair during the 2004 trial, was biased because of her own undisclosed past with domestic violence, according to The Associated Press.
Peterson’s defense attorneys have accused Richelle Nice—who is known in court documents as Juror 7—of being a “stealth juror” for failing to disclose two separate domestic violence-related incidents that had taken place years earlier, KTVU reports.
In 2000, Nice had taken out a restraining order against her boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend while she was pregnant because she feared for her unborn child, but never disclosed the incident on a questionnaire asking whether she had ever been the victim of a crime or a lawsuit. She also never told the court about another incident the next year when her boyfriend beat her while she was pregnant with another child.
Peterson’s defense attorneys have argued that if she would have provided the information at the time of jury selection, it could have impacted the trial.
“If she had told the truth, she never would have been put on the jury,” defense attorney Pat Harris told The Mercury News.
They are seeking a new trial and hope to present new evidence about a nearby robbery the same day Laci Peterson disappeared, as well as an examination on fetal remains they believe shows the fetus Laci was carrying was “alive for at least another five to six days” after the disappearance, Harris told the Associated Press.
However, prosecutors have argued that the defense has failed to provide evidence suggesting that Nice had a “darker motive” to be on the jury and have argued against a new trial for the convicted killer.
The decision on whether to grant Peterson a new trial will lie with Superior Court Judge Anne-Christine Massullo, who will be tasked with reviewing the evidence and testimony provided during the hearing.
In addition to Nice—who has been granted immunity with prosecutors in exchange for her testimony—attorneys could call some of Nice’s fellow jurors to the stand who wrote the book “We, the Jury” alongside her, journalists who had covered the trial back in 2004, and Peterson’s former lead attorney, Mark Geragos.
The hearing is expected to last about a week.
Peterson was convicted of killing his wife, and the unborn son the couple had planned to name Connor, after both bodies washed up along the Richmond shoreline four months after Laci disappeared from her Modesto home on Christmas Eve in 2002.
Peterson, who has continued to proclaim his innocence, told investigators he had been fishing the day his wife disappeared, but speculation about his involvement in the deaths grew after it was revealed that he had been having an affair at the time with massage therapist Amber Frey.
Peterson was convicted of the murders and sentenced to death, but the death sentence was overturned in August of 2020 after the California Supreme Court ruled that jurors who had personally opposed the death penalty but would have been willing to follow the law and impose it were improperly excluded from serving on the jury.
He was resentenced to life in prison in December after prosecutors opted not to retry the penalty phase of the trial.
After Peterson’s conviction, Nice wrote him 17 letters behind bars and received eight letters back from Peterson himself.
She told the Modesto Bee in 2017 that she had reached out to the man she helped convict because she wanted him to explain why he had committed the murders even though she didn’t expect him to confess to the crimes.
Nice has said in a declaration filed in court that she failed to disclose her own personal history during the jury selection process because she didn’t realize a restraining order was considered a lawsuit, according to the local paper. She also said she didn’t consider herself the victim in the incident with her boyfriend in 2001 because he had called the police. She described it as more of a “heated argument.”
“I have had countless unpleasant experiences in my life,” she wrote. “Those outlined above did not cross my mind during any portion of the jury selection process or during the trial. They did not play any role in my evaluation of the evidence or my verdicts.”
Peterson, who has been moved to the Redwood City jail for the hearing, is expected to be in court each day.