SACRAMENTO, Calif .– A California district attorney said in a court filing Friday that she would not seek a new death sentence against Scott Peterson, convicted in 2005 of murdering his pregnant wife.
The Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office said it would drop efforts to reinstate the sentence that was rejected by the state’s Supreme Court last year. The prosecutor said the decision was made in consultation with Laci Peterson’s family.
California judges ruled the death penalty could not last because potential jurors were excluded after saying they disagreed with the death penalty.
The family have “no doubts” that Peterson killed his wife and unborn son Conner and deserves the death penalty, but are unwilling to pursue this punishment because “this process is just too painful to endure once. moreover, ”said District Attorney Birgit Fladager. filing in the Superior Court of San Mateo.
Peterson, now 48, was sentenced in San Mateo court after his trial was transferred from Stanislaus County due to massive pre-trial publicity following the Christmas Eve 2002 disappearance of Laci, 27, eight months pregnant.
Investigators say Peterson took the bodies from their Modesto home and dumped them from his fishing boat in San Francisco Bay, where they resurfaced months later.
Peterson maintains her innocence and a judge is considering granting a new trial because a juror did not reveal that she sought a restraining order in 2000 against her boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend. She said while seeking the order that she feared for her unborn child. The judge must decide whether this amounts to juror misconduct and, if so, whether it is so prejudicial that a new trial is warranted.
If no new trial is granted, he will be sentenced to life imprisonment.
One of Peterson’s attorneys said the ad was not a precursor to a plea deal and that his client would seek a new trial if a judge decides his first was tainted with jury misconduct.
Superior Court Judge Anne-Christine Massullo said she hopes to decide this year whether Peterson deserves a new trial.
It is not clear whether prosecutors could seek the death penalty again if there is a retrial and he has been convicted again, said defense attorney Pat Harris, who deals with the death sentence part of the case.
Another lawyer, Andras Farkas, is representing Peterson on whether he gets a new trial. Farkas did not respond to an email requesting comment.
“It is not clear to me that they are saying no matter what, that we are taking the death penalty off the table … or that they are saying that if we go back to trial, we reserve the right to ‘Apply the death penalty back up again,’ said Harris. “It looks like they’re sort of holding back that if the judge orders a new trial, they could put the death penalty back on the table.”
That could be cleared up during what was supposed to be a procedural hearing on Tuesday, he said.
The district attorney’s office made no comment.
Harris noted that prosecutors previously said the family again supported the death penalty demand, and argued their new motion was a gamble to avoid re-airing the case.
“The truth is, they’ve determined … the handwriting is on the wall and if we go back to trial we’re going to prove Scott’s innocence,” he said.
He said he could prove there was a burglary nearby on the day Peterson went missing, helping the defense claim someone else had killed her when she came across the crime.
If prosecutors were to proceed to a new sentencing phase, they would essentially have to retry the whole case before a new jury – so that new evidence would come out even if the jurors could not acquit it and could only recommend. a death or life sentence. prison, he said.
“The truth will be out. Ultimately, people will know what happened “even if he doesn’t get a new trial for his guilt or innocence,” Harris said.
Scott Peterson’s family and supporters made a similar argument in a Facebook post, that Harris’s request last week for evidence in the hands of prosecutors sparked their decision.
“We are thankful that Stanislaus County is no longer looking to put Scott to death, but it’s # Time4aNewTrial,” the post said.