California Supreme Court Overturns Scott Peterson’s Death Sentence
California’s Supreme Court overturned Scott Peterson’s death sentence on Monday, with justices claiming that the “clear and significant errors in jury selection” infringed upon Scott Peterson’s right to an impartial trial.
Scott Peterson is known for his conviction in the slaying of his wife, Laci Peterson, and their unborn son, Connor, in 2002. Laci Peterson, then eight months pregnant, disappeared from her home on Christmas Eve.
Months later in April of 2003, her body was discovered in the San Francisco Bay. Scott Peterson claimed to have last seen his wife Christmas Eve morning, as he was preparing to leave for a fishing trip at the Berkley Marina. However, investigators speculate that Scott Peterson dumped their bodies from his fishing boat into the San Francisco Bay.
In 2004, Scott Peterson was tried and convicted of murdering both his wife and their prenatal son. He received his death sentence in 2005 and was set to be executed by lethal injection. In 2006, the U.S. District Court decided that, “California’s lethal-injection protocol – as actually administered in practice – creates an undue and unnecessary risk that an inmate will suffer pain so extreme that it offends the Eighth Amendment.” Nobody has been executed since.
Scott Peterson’s first- and second-degree convictions still stand, according to the opinion published by The Supreme Court of California on Monday, Aug. 24.
“We reject Peterson’s claim that he received an unfair trial as to guilt and thus affirm his convictions for murder,” Justice Leondra Kruger wrote in the unanimous opinion.
While his original convictions still stand, the court found that jurors were falsely excused from the case because of their views on capitol punishment.
"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," the unanimous opinion also states.
Scott Peterson began the automatic appellate process in July of 2012. His attorney, Cliff Gardner, was pleased with the Supreme Court’s decision.
"We are grateful for the California Supreme Court's unanimous recognition that if the state wishes to put someone to death, it must proceed to trial only with a fairly selected jury. Prosecutors may not rely on a jury specifically organized by the state to return a verdict of death," Gardner said in a statement to CNN.
The new verdict has put Laci Peterson’s family through a great deal of pain, according to a People Magazine article published on Tuesday.
"There is no end to the pain that Scott Peterson has put this family through," a source close with the family said to People Magazine.
The Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office is currently reviewing their options and is unsure whether it will seek the death penalty for Scott Peterson again.