Scott Peterson was found guilty of killing his pregnant wife Laci Peterson in 2002 by a jury in California. He has not been given a new trial.
Peterson, who is 50 years old, and his lawyers said that a juror in his 2004 m*urder trial did something wrong, so he should get a new trial. But on Tuesday, a judge in the San Mateo County Superior Court said she hadn’t.
Pat Harris, Peterson’s lawyer, said in a statement to CBS News that they were “disappointed” by the decision, but that “this case is not over.” He also said that they had new evidence that shows Peterson did not kill his wife.
The disappearance of Laci in 2002 and Peterson’s subsequent m*urder conviction got a lot of attention from the media. A jury found him guilty of killing his wife, who was 27 years old, and their unborn son, whom they had planned to name Conner. Prosecutors said that on Christmas Eve of 2002, Peterson threw Laci’s body into San Francisco Bay.
After convicting Peterson, the jury gave him the death penalty.
Peterson’s lawyers said that juror No. 7, Richelle Nice, lied on a pre-trial questionnaire by leaving out the fact that she got a restraining order against her then-boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend because she feared for the safety of her unborn child. Peterson’s lawyers said she had a prejudice against him.
In an August hearing, San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Anne-Christine Massullo let Peterson and his lawyers argue in court for a new trial. This took place over several days of testimony. Nice said that she didn’t dislike Peterson until she heard the evidence as a juror.
“The court concludes that Juror No. 7’s (Nice’s) answers (on the questionnaire) were not based on a pre-existing or improper bias against petitioner (Peterson),” Massullo wrote in Tuesday’s ruling. “Instead, they were the result of a good-faith misunderstanding of the questions and sloppiness in answering.”
Harris said in his statement that he “respectfully” disagreed with the judge’s decision that Nice did not do anything wrong. He said that this sets a bad example for future cases.
“In order to have a fair trial, juror questionnaires and the lawyers who read them depend on the answers being honest. Harris said in his statement, “It will be hard if jurors think they can lie and nothing will happen to them.”
Peterson was taken off death row in October, more than two years after the California Supreme Court overturned his death sentence. He was moved to Mule Creek State Prison, which is east of Sacramento.