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Scott Peterson Could Be Closer To New Trial After Judge Says She Plans To Hold Two-Week Hearing On The Matter

Superior Court Judge Anne-Christine Massullo said a two week hearing to consider claims that juror misconduct had prevented Scott Peterson from getting a fair trial could be held as early as November, but will likely take place in early 2022. 

By Jill Sederstrom
Scott Peterson Ap

Scott Peterson, convicted of killing his pregnant wife Laci in 2002, could be closer to a new trial after a judge said Wednesday that she planned to hold a two-week hearing to consider the matter early next year.

Peterson’s attorneys have argued that juror misconduct played a role in his initial trial and, as a result, the 49-year-old should be granted a new trial.

The allegations center around former juror Richelle Nice—known in court records as Juror 7. Defense attorneys argue that Nice didn’t disclose her own history of domestic abuse before sitting on the jury, which they said prevented Peterson from receiving a fair trial, according to The Associated Press.

Nice never disclosed that she had sought a restraining order in 2000 against her boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend after the woman had allegedly threatened to harm her unborn child. She also never told the court that her boyfriend had beat her in 2001 while she had been pregnant with another child, The Modesto Bee reports.

The boyfriend, was arrested for domestic violence and later pleaded no contest to battery against her, according to court documents obtained by the news outlet.

Despite the arrest, when Nice was asked whether she had ever been involved in a lawsuit or been the victim of a crime as part of the prospective juror screening, she answered “no.”

In a subsequent court filing, Nice—who co-authored a book about her experience as a juror with six other jurors—later said that she didn’t feel “victimized” by either incident and didn’t realize that a restraining order was considered a form of lawsuit.

Superior Court Judge Anne-Christine Massullo will now be tasked with determining whether Nice committed “prejudicial misconduct” and whether a new trial should be granted for Peterson, who was convicted in 2004 of killing his wife, Laci, and the couple’s unborn child.

Massullo plans to hold a two-week hearing to consider the matter. Deputy Stanislaus County District Attorney Dave Harris described the hearing as getting into the “meat and potatoes of what the juror’s information is,” according to The Associated Press.

Massullo said it’s possible the hearing could be held in November, but was more likely it would take place after the holidays in January or February of next year. She plans to set the date for the hearing at another court appearance on Sept. 22.

In August of 2020, a California Supreme Court overturned Peterson’s death sentence in the case after ruling that the trial judge had “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 an earlier decision obtained by Oxygen.com.

The decision did not overturn his conviction; however, the Supreme Court did subsequently order a review of the convictions against the former fertilizer salesman.

Massullo has opted to delay resentencing Peterson until the issue of whether or not he will be granted a new trial is resolved.

Peterson was convicted in Laci’s 2002 death after prosecutors argued that he had killed his wife and unborn child and then dumped their bodies in the San Francisco Bay. Peterson had been carrying on an affair at the time with Amber Frey, who would later testify that she was unaware that Peterson was married when they began their relationship.

Peterson’s sister-in-law Janey Peterson continues to maintain his innocence and appeared Wednesday on TODAY to claim new evidence suggested that he had not been his wife’s killer.

She believes the timeline presented by prosecutors doesn’t fit the evidence and pointed to statements that centered around the couple’s dog. A neighbor testified at Peterson’s trial that the couple's Golden Retriever was inside the gated yard of the home at 10:15 a.m. the day Laci disappeared. A mailman also claimed to have been by the house at 10:30 a.m. that morning and said he did not see the dog outside, suggesting Laci may have been out walking the dog at that time.

Janey believes that is further evidence to support the defense’s theory that Laci was killed by men robbing a nearby house the morning she disappeared.

“There’s evidence that was completely ignored that shows Laci was alive after he left for the day,” she said of her brother-in-law’s activities that day.

The men involved in the burglary have previously denied any involvement in her disappearance.