California prosecutors will once again seek the death penalty for Scott Peterson in the murder of his wife, Laci, and their unborn son.
Peterson, 47, still on death row in San Quentin State Prison, learned the bad news on Friday, while participating by video in a Stanislaus County court proceeding.
Peterson’s first death sentence – in 2005 – was overturned in August by the California Supreme Court due to the fault of a juror.
The state’s highest court upheld Peterson’s murder conviction in that decision. But less than two months later, the court concluded that the murder conviction may also have been tainted with fault by a juror.
The murder conviction has been returned to San Mateo County Superior Court to determine whether Peterson should get a new murder trial.
Friday’s hearing in Stanislaus County only affects the sanction phase of the new trial.
Deputy District Attorney Dave Harris told a judge prosecutors intend to pursue a phase of overhaul of the death penalty, a DA spokesperson said, declining to comment further.
“He is innocent – an innocent man has been in prison for 15 years. It’s time to get him out, ”lawyer Pat Harris told reporters outside the courtroom as he explained why he was taking over the case. He was also part of Peterson’s initial test team alongside famous lawyer Mark Geragos.
Janey Peterson, her sister-in-law, said the family looked forward to her new day in court.
“We still need justice for Laci, Connor and Scott,” she told reporters. “We don’t get justice for Laci with Scott on death row, because Scott is innocent.”
Laci, 27, disappeared on Christmas Eve 2002 when she was eight months pregnant with their unborn son, Connor.
Investigators say Peterson murdered them at their home in Modesto and then dumped them from his fishing boat in San Francisco Bay, where they resurfaced almost four months later.
Peterson was eventually arrested after Amber Frey, a massage therapist living in Fresno, told police they started dating a month before his wife died, but told her she was dead.
Peterson maintained his innocence.
The original guilt and sentence trials have been called into question after Peterson’s defense team claimed that one of the jurors, Richelle Nice, concealed that she sought a restraining order after the ex- her boyfriend’s girlfriend harassed her while she was pregnant.
“SP. Nice has not intentionally withheld any information,” said his lawyer, Elliot Silver, in a statement Friday evening.
“She did not mislead the court, the lawyers, the parties or anyone involved in the case,” he said.
“His decision to vote guilty was based on the evidence presented at trial and not on any predisposition or desire to punish Peterson as his lawyers now suggest.