A little more than a year after an appellate court overturned convicted murderer Scott Peterson’s death sentence, a judge on Wednesday reportedly said that Peterson will be formally resentenced to life imprisonment sometime in November. The exact date will likely be set at an Oct. 6 hearing.
In August 2020, a California appeals court sustained Peterson’s core conviction intact but found the trial court “erroneously dismissed” jurors who expressed opposition to the death penalty. The court found that this error required jettisoning Peterson’s death sentence, “even though the jurors gave no indication that their views would prevent them from following the law.”
Telling the judge that Laci Peterson’s family found the process “simply too painful” to replicate, California prosecutor declined to pursue capital punishment yet again. Scott Peterson is now 48. At the time of the Christmas Eve murder in 2002, Laci Peterson was 27. She was 8 months pregnant and carrying her unborn child Conner Peterson.
The outcome of the November sentencing will be no mystery: Peterson’s first- and second-degree murder convictions mandate a minimum sentence of life behind bars.
In a written ruling dated Tuesday but made public on Wednesday, the judge allowed the convicted killer to undertake limited discovery before a separate evidentiary hearing slated for next year in his habeas case.
“Considering that these allegations are relevant to the alleged underlying misconduct, and that the requested subpoenas will permit the Court to establish some of the disputed facts, the requested limited discovery is appropriate and will ultimately expedite litigation,” the ruling states.
Peterson’s attorneys have attacked Juror No. 7, whom they described as “rogue” and accused of lying.
The judge granted limited discovery as to this juror, whom the Modesto, Calif.-based TV station KRON identified as Richelle Nice. Their legal claims that the juror “wanted to sit in judgment of Mr. Peterson, in part to punish him for a crime of harming his unborn child – a crime that she personally experienced when Marcella Kinsey threatened juror 7’s life and the life of juror 7’s unborn child.”
The judge did not believe Peterson’s evidence hunt needed to delve deeply.
“The Court is also not convinced, for several reasons, that there exists unexpected witnesses or evidence that could rebut Juror No. 7’s own interpretation of the questionnaire she personally filled out and her recollection of these undisclosed private incidents,” the ruling states. “First, to the extent there are witnesses to the two incidents, they are small in number. To the extent [Peterson] wishes to call each as a witness, he may do so for the evidentiary hearing. The testimony should be brief and targeted to those incidents.”
Peterson claimed that Juror No. 7 concealed certain undisclosed incidents in order to be on the jury to punish him.
“Juror No. 7 denies that she lied on her questionnaire or that she harbored any bias against Petitioner,” the judge wrote. “This Court will have the opportunity to assess Juror No. 7’s credibility on those issues at the evidentiary hearing. If anything, arranging for a deposition especially during a pandemic would take much more time than Juror No. 7’s live testimony and provide the Court as the fact finder with little if any additional relevant information.”
The judge also denied Peterson’s request to depose the woman’s boyfriend and her mother.
Read the ruling below:
[image via San Quentin State Prison]
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