Court Tosses Death Penalty for Scott Peterson

But it reaffirms that he's guilty of murdering wife Laci and their unborn child
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 24, 2020 1:40 PM CDT
Court Tosses Death Penalty for Scott Peterson
In this 2005 file photo, Scott Peterson is escorted by two San Mateo County Sheriff deputies as he is walked from the jail to a waiting van in Redwood City, Calif.   (AP Photo/Justin Sullivan, Pool,File)

Scott Peterson is still a murderer in the eyes of the law, but he is no longer on death row because of it. California's state Supreme Court upheld the high-profile murder convictions for Peterson, now 47, in the deaths of his pregnant wife, Laci, and their unborn child in 2002, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. However, the court ruled 7-0 that the the judge in his case made "clear and significant" mistakes during the death-penalty phase of the trial, including the dismissal of jurors who had expressed opposition to the death penalty. That left a jury predisposed to handing out capital punishment, argued Peterson's lawyers, per the Modesto Bee.

"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," Justice Leondra Kruger wrote, per KCRA3. Prosecutors will now have to decide whether they want to retry the death-penalty portion of the case. Peterson, who continues to proclaim innocence, was convicted in 2004 of killing Laci in their Modesto home on Christmas Eve. The bodies washed up on the shore of San Francisco Bay months later, near the spot where Scott Peterson said he had gone fishing. Laci, 27, was 8 months' pregnant at the time of her death. (Her mother remembered their last visit.)

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