New hearings for Peterson murder case set for January 2021 due to juror misconduct

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Tuesday, November 10, 2020
Scott Peterson penalty phase to be retried, prosecutors say
The Stanislaus County District Attorney's office announced in court Friday it will retry the penalty phase in the case of convicted murderer Scott Peterson.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A San Francisco Superior Court judge set a new hearing date for January 2021, based on convicted murderer Scott Lee Peterson's claim of juror misconduct in his original trial.

Peterson was convicted in 2004 of murdering his wife and unborn child, and in 2005 he was sentenced to death. In the last 15 years he has been incarcerated at San Quentin, where he has mounted numerous challenges to his conviction.

In October, the California Supreme Court considered Peterson's claim that one of the jurors who served at his original trial lied to the court during pre-trial questioning. The juror allegedly stated that she had not been a victim of a crime, had not been involved in a lawsuit, and had not participated in a trial as a party or a witness.

RELATED: Scott Peterson penalty phase to be retried, prosecutors say

However, according to Peterson's filing, "when (the juror) was four and one-half months pregnant in November of 2000, she and her unborn baby were threatened, assaulted and stalked by her boyfriend's ex-girlfriend. (She) was so frightened that she filed a lawsuit to obtain a restraining order."

The petition further alleged that the juror "sued her attacker for causing her to begin premature contractions, threatening the life of her unborn child. At trial on her own complaint against her attacker, (the juror) was sworn and called as a witness. Based on (the juror's) testimony, the court granted her a three-year restraining order."

Peterson's lawyers argued that the juror would never have been seated on the jury had she disclosed those facts, and her failure to do so requires the conviction to be thrown out.

RELATED: Scott Peterson's murder convictions to be reexamined in San Mateo court

On Oct. 14, the high court directed the trial court to hold hearings on whether relief should be granted "on the ground that Juror No. 7 committed prejudicial misconduct by not disclosing her prior involvement with other legal proceedings." The high court returned the matter to the Superior Court of San Mateo County for further hearings on the juror misconduct claim.

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Anne-Christine Massullo was appointed to preside over the matter.

At a case management conference on Monday, Judge Massullo granted the prosecutors an extension of time to prepare their filing, and set a hearing date for Jan. 21.

RELATED: Scott Peterson, convicted of killing wife, unborn son, could have conviction overturned, attorney says

The judge said that she was inclined to order Petersen be transferred to a jail in San Mateo County so it would be easier for him to confer with his counsel, but she deferred deciding that issue pending further information about how COVID-related restrictions in the prisons would affect transferred prisoners. If Peterson would have to quarantine for two weeks after transfer to San Mateo, the judge thought it would make sense to do that now, but she gave Peterson's counsel a few days to explore the situation and report back.

Peterson's case has attracted worldwide attention. Proof at trial showed that Peterson was having an affair while his wife was pregnant. The prosecutors presented evidence that Petersen killed his wife shortly before Christmas 2002, and then took her body out on his boat into the San Francisco Bay and dumped her, weighted down by concrete blocks, in the deep waters of the Bay.

RELATED: Scott Peterson's death penalty conviction overturned, new trial on penalty phase ordered

In April 2003, Laci's decomposed and partially dismembered corpse was discovered in the Bay. The fetus was also discovered roughly a mile away. DNA tests confirmed Laci's identity.

Peterson has maintained his innocence through the 15 years he has been confined at San Quentin.