Court Battles

California DA says she won’t seek new death sentence against Scott Peterson

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A California district attorney will not seek a new death sentence against Scott Peterson, who was convicted in 2005 of murdering his wife following a highly publicized trial. 

In a Friday San Mateo Superior Court filing, Stanislaus County District Attorney Birgit Fladager said that she would no longer be pursuing an effort to restore the death sentence.

The sentence was thrown out last year when California justices said potential jurors were excluded from the trial after saying they disagreed with the death penalty. 

Fladager in the filing obtained by The Associated Press said that while Laci Peterson’s family has “no doubt” that Scott Peterson killed his wife, who was eight months pregnant with their unborn son, Conner, and deserves the death penalty, it doesn’t want to pursue restoring the punishment because “this process is simply too painful to endure once again.” 

Scott Peterson, whose trial was moved from Stanislaus County to the San Mateo court due to significant public attention surrounding the case, has been held at San Quentin State Prison since his conviction. 

The move by the district attorney comes as Scott Peterson has continued to maintain his innocence and is seeking a new trial. His attorneys said a juror failed to disclose that she had sought a restraining order against her boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend out of fear for the safety of her unborn child. 

Superior Court Judge Anne-Christine Massullo has said that she hopes to make a decision this year on whether the nondisclosure amounts to juror misconduct and if it warrants a new murder trial, the AP reported. 

Pat Harris, the attorney who is handling the death sentence portion of Scott Peterson’s case, told the AP that it was not immediately clear if the district attorney would resume seeking the death penalty should a new trial occur. 

“It’s not clear to me that they’re saying no matter what, we’re taking the death penalty off the table … or they’re saying if we go back to trial we’re reserving the right to put the death penalty back up again,” Harris told the news agency. “It sounds like they’re kind of holding back that if the judge orders a new trial, they could put the death penalty back on the table.”

“The truth of the matter is they have determined … that the handwriting is on the wall and if we go back to trial we’re going to prove Scott’s innocence,” he added. 

Harris has said that he could prove to the court that a nearby burglary on the day of Laci Peterson’s 2002 disappearance could provide reasonable doubt about whether her husband was the one responsible for her death. 

The Hill has reached out to the Stanislaus County district attorney’s office for comment.

Tags California death penalty murder conviction murder trial New trial Superior Court The Associated Press

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