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Juror’s Lack of Transparency About Restraining Order Leads to Review of Scott Peterson’s Murder Conviction

Scott Peterson

The California Supreme Court on Wednesday is ordering another look at the double murder conviction of Scott Peterson, 47.

“The Secretary of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is ordered to show cause in the Superior Court of California, County of San Mateo, when the matter is placed on calendar, why the relief prayed for should not be granted on the ground that Juror No. 7 committed prejudicial misconduct by not disclosing her prior involvement with other legal proceedings, including but not limited to being the victim of a crime, as alleged in Claim 1,” the court wrote.

There is a deadline of Nov. 13 for the government to state its position, so it remains to be seen if this will translate to a long-term victory for the defense. The development comes after the California Supreme Court overturned Peterson’s death sentence in August, though the court gave the state another opportunity to seek capital punishment.

The court’s new decision stems from a controversy involving Juror 7: a woman who stepped forward years ago as Richelle Nice. Originally an alternate, she is one of the people who found Peterson guilty and sentenced him to death for the 2002 first-degree murder of his wife Laci Peterson, 27, and the second-degree murder of their unborn child Conner. The defense asserted that she lied to get on the jury: Nice did not say on the jury questionnaire that she had applied for a restraining order against her then-boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend. Nice had been “in fear for her unborn child,” according to the application for the order obtained by The Modesto Bee. The ex-girlfriend had allegedly kicked in the couple’s door, and vandalized the boyfriend’s car.

The long and short of it: Peterson’s defense maintains that Nice, in light of her personal history, did what she could to get on the jury, even after her employer said it could only pay her up to two weeks out of work. The trial was expected to last five months. This juror had a “darker motive” for joining the case, the defense maintained.

Nice told the Modesto Bee in a 2017 report that at the time of the trial, Peterson’s trial attorney Mark Geragos “fought to keep me” on the jury. She denied lying to get on the case, and asserted that she did not mention the restraining order on her juror questionnaire because her situation was different from the Peterson case.

“She never threatened to kill me, to kill my unborn child, to beat me up,” she said. “When I filled out that questionnaire, my situation never came into my mind because it was not similar at all.”

Nice said that she dropped the restraining order several months after she got it, and is friends with the ex-girlfriend.

“She loves my kids,” she said. “My kids love her.”

[Mugshot via California Department of Corrections]

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