By Layla Mustafa
SAN MATEO COUNTY – Scott Peterson—who was found guilty of murdering his wife and unborn baby 15 years ago and sentenced to death—made an appearance via livestream in a San Mateo County Court Friday afternoon, largely to waive his right to a speedy retrial for re-sentencing, now set for January of 2021.
The location of the hearing was moved from Stanislaus County to San Mateo County for Peterson, who was convicted in 2004 of murdering his pregnant wife Laci Peterson and their unborn son, Connor.
Peterson will be getting a new death penalty trial after the California Supreme Court heard an argument on Scott Peterson’s appeal, which argued that the improper misconduct surrounding the jurors in Peterson’s case, the inaccurate evidentiary rulings, and extreme media bias deprived Peterson of a fair trial.
The prosecution argued all these claims were not credible. Despite that, on August 24, the Supreme Court of California upheld Peterson’s conviction, but overturned his death sentence.
The 7-0 decision made by the California Supreme Court concluded that the original judge, the late Judge Alfred Delucchi, had “made a series of clear and significant errors” in the jury selection process.
The judge was claimed to have dismissed jurors who opposed capital punishment without asking whether or not they could put their views aside. Jurors may not be excused solely on the basis that they oppose the death penalty, only if their views would render them unable to fairly consider the penalty.
Now the Peterson case has returned to the courts as Californian prosecutors seek to retry for the death penalty.
This Friday Peterson appeared before Judge Anne-Christine Massullo via Zoom. The hearing only reviewed the penalty phase retrial. Prosecutors formally committed to seeking the death penalty, and Peterson waived his right to a speedy penalty trial, effectively pushing the date of the next hearing to January 2021.
In the coming months, the San Mateo County court will decide whether or not juror misconduct did actually occur. If it did, Peterson may be granted a new murder trial, according to Peterson’s new attorney Pat Harris, who claims a plethora of new evidence will come to light. According to the habeas corpus petition, there is “newly discovered evidence revealed through post-conviction investigation.”
Harris commented that his client is grateful that the case is finally back in motion.
Outside the courthouse Harris stated: “He has been sitting there for 15 years; 15 very long years and he is excited to get the opportunity to finally go back into court and get to talk about some of the things we feel like should have been discussed in the first case…and I think this time, hopefully, there will be some changes. There will be some things that are different.”
The new status hearing for Peterson’s case was set for Jan. 21, 2021, in San Mateo County.
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