Death Sentence Overturned For Scott Peterson, Convicted Of Murdering Wife Laci


    California’s Supreme Court on Monday overturned the 2005 death sentence for Scott Peterson, who was convicted in 2004 of murdering his pregnant wife Laci and unborn child, though the court’s 7-0 decision upheld that he is guilty.

    Scott Peterson is escorted by two San Mateo County Sheriff deputies as he is walked from the jail to … [+] an awaiting van on March 17, 2005.

    The court rejected Peterson’s claim that his trial was “flawed” for multiple reasons, including the pretrial publicity that surrounded his case, but they overturned his death sentence because they found the jury selection process undermined his “right to an impartial jury at the penalty phase.” 

    The court found the trial court “made a series of clear and significant errors” in the jury selection process which went against United States Supreme Court precedent. 

    The decision says the trial court “erroneously dismissed” many prospective jurors who expressed opposition to the death penalty in written questionnaires, even though the jurors said their views would not impede their ability to follow the law.

    Citing Supreme Court precedent, the court found “these errors require us to reverse the death sentence in this case,” noting that the prosecutors can retry the penalty phase which could result in a death sentence conviction. 

    The court cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that a juror cannot be dismissed for expressing opposition to the death penalty as a general matter, only if the juror’s views would “substantially impair” the ability to follow the law. 

    Peterson was convicted of first-degree murder in the death of his wife, then eight months pregnant, and the second-degree murder of their unborn son Connor, a case that sparked endless media coverage and speculation after her disappearance in 2002.

    Laci disappeared on Christmas Eve 2002, prompting a massive search. At first her family did not suspect Peterson, but that changed after a massage therapist named Amber Frey came forward on January 24, 2003 and told police she and Peterson had been dating, and that he had told her his wife had died. She secretly recorded calls with him for the police. On April 18, California Attorney General Bill Lockye confirmed that the bodies of Laci and unborn baby Connor’s were found on the San Francisco Bay shore. Peterson was arrested in San Diego that day and charged with two felony counts of murder with premeditation and special circumstances on April 21. Under California law, the special circumstance allows the prosecution to seek the death penalty. There are two counts because under California’s fetal homicide statute a fetus is considered an equal victim. Peterson pled not guilty. Trial preparation began in May and the trial was moved to San Mateo country in January of 2004 because of the intensity of the press attention. Peterson was found guilty on November 12, 2004 and sentenced to death on March 16, 2005 .

    I’m a reporter at Forbes and the author of What Next?: Your Five-Year Plan for Life After College published by the Simon & Schuster imprint Adams Media. I have a

    I’m a reporter at Forbes and the author of What Next?: Your Five-Year Plan for Life After College published by the Simon & Schuster imprint Adams Media. I have a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University. 


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