REDWOOD CITY, Calif. (KRON) — Some KRON4 viewers who are passionate about the Scott Peterson murder case are outraged that Peterson’s death sentence was overturned and that he is making big gains in the appeals process for a whole new trial. Why is this happening now?
It’s been 17 years since he was found guilty of murdering his pregnant wife Laci and unborn son Conner.
The answer falls squarely on the shoulders on the 2004 murder trial’s judge, and one juror who is accused of lying.
Now it’s up to Judge Anne Christine Massullo to decide: Did Peterson receive a fair trial with an unbias jury?
Peterson maintains his innocence.
He says he went fishing in the San Francisco Bay when Laci vanished from their Modesto neighborhood on Christmas Eve.
One of his defense attorneys, Pat Harris, spoke to KRON4 outside the San Mateo County courthouse on Tuesday following a hearing for Peterson.
Harris said, “Scott is sitting in a cell and he’s innocent. From the moment I met him, from the first three months I sat in a jail cell with him in Modesto every single day, he was always telling the exact same story. It never, ever changed, it never contradicted. It was amazing because every client I’ve ever had, you can almost always pick up contradictions in their stories. Never did with him. He’s always been very truthful with me.”
Harris said national news headlines painting Peterson as a “psychopath” are false.
The reason why it took Peterson until 2021 to have his habeas corpus petition heard in court is because it’s a death penalty case.
Last year, the California Supreme Court threw out Peterson’s death sentence because the jury was not properly questioned by judge Alfred Delucchi about their opinions on the death penalty. Peterson will receive a new trial for the penalty phase to be re-sentenced.
But his bigger goal is to get a whole new trial for the guilt phase.
To win a new guilt phase trial, his habeas corpus attorney, Cliff Gardner, is seeking to prove that a so-called “rogue juror,” Richelle Nice, already had her mind made up that Peterson was guilty before she saw any evidence presented during the trial.
Gardner is considered one of the best appellate attorneys in the country.
On Tuesday, Massullo granted Peterson’s defense team more time to investigate Nice, who is accused of lying while being selected to serve on the jury that ultimately convicted Peterson.
When she was questioned during jury selection, Nice denied that she had ever been the victim of a crime.
According to Peterson’s defense team, Nice was in fact the victim of domestic violence and threats while she was pregnant.
Harris said Nice was biased toward Laci because both women were victimized while pregnant.
Nice exchanged dozens of prison letters with Peterson after the trial in which she expressed her grief for Laci and Conner.
Nice wrote to Peterson in one letter, “The spot where your beautiful wife washed ashore…and YOU robbed her & your beautiful son of a life with each other. What pushed you so far to the limit, where you felt that you needed to kill someone who not only loved you so much, but someone who was carring [sic] part of you inside her? My heart aches for your son. Why couldn’t he have the same chances in life as you were given. You should have been dreaming of your son being the best at whatever he did in life, not planning a way to get rid of him!”
The case is being prosecuted by the Stanislaus County District Attorney, but the San Mateo County courthouse is still the “home court,” judge Massullo said. All court proceedings are happening in Redwood City.
The Stanislaus County District Attorney wrote in its most recent response to Peterson’s habeas corpus petition, ” These letters demonstrate only that Juror No. 7 (Nice) was as traumatized by the evidence presented at the trial as were other jurors who wrote about their continual thoughts of Laci and Conner, years after the trial.”
Once judge Massullo makes a ruling to decide whether the 2004 murder trial’s jury committed misconduct, and Peterson is given a new trial for either the penalty phase or guilty phase, the defense team is promising that new witnesses and evidence will be presented to a new jury that proves his innocence.
Gardner has not revealed exactly what that new evidence will be.
Laci’s family has not spoken out about 2021’s new legal developments in the case.