The Supreme Court of California has overturned the death penalty for Scott Peterson, the murderer convicted over a decade ago of killing his wife Laci and their unborn son Conner.
Peterson was sentenced to death back in 2005 after killing Laci, who was eight months pregnant with Conner at the time.
Before murdering his wife and child, Peterson had extramarital affairs with multiple women, including Amber Frey, who contacted police after learning that Peterson was a suspect in his wife’s disappearance. Frey reported that Peterson told her he was not married.
Laci and Conner’s remains were discovered on a beach in San Francisco Bay back in April 2003. Peterson was arrested on the same day. According to court records, he was carrying nearly $15,000 in cash, foreign currency, two drivers’ licenses, a family member’s credit card, camping gear, and several cellphones at the time of his arrest.
According to Courthouse News, Peterson’s attorneys filed a 423-page appeal back in 2012 claiming his innocence. On Monday, the high court overturned his death penalty conviction, citing jury selection errors.
Courthouse News reports:
In 2004, a jury convicted Peterson of first-degree murder in the death of Laci and second-degree murder in Conner’s death. The jury also returned a verdict of death in the sentencing phase.
The trial had been moved to San Mateo County because so many people in Stanislaus County, where the Petersons lived, were familiar with the case. But on appeal, Peterson argued he didn’t get a fair trial in San Mateo either due to the publicity surrounding the case.
In a 103-page opinion published on Monday, the California Supreme Court justices rejected Peterson’s claim, but nonetheless unanimously found that the trial court made “significant errors in jury selection.”
“While a court may dismiss a prospective juror as unqualified to sit on a capital case if the juror’s views on capital punishment would substantially impair his or her ability to follow the law, a juror may not be dismissed merely because he or she has expressed opposition to the death penalty as a general matter,” Associate Justice Leondra R. Kruger wrote for the court.
Several potential jurors were “erroneously dismissed,” Kruger continued, because of their answers regarding the death penalty to a selection questionnaire.
“Here, there was not just one error; there were many,” Kruger wrote. “We are therefore required to reverse the death judgment. Contrary to Peterson’s argument, however, we are not also required to reverse the judgment of guilt.”
Peterson’s murder convictions still stand, and prosecutors may retry the penalty portion of the case.
After the death of her daughter and grandson, Laci’s mother, Sharon Rocha said, according to LifeSiteNews, “I can only hope that the sound of Laci’s voice, begging for her life, begging for the life of her unborn child, is heard over and over and over again in the mind of that person every day for the rest of his life.”
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