It is almost certain to be life in prison without the possibility of parole, as Stanislaus County District Attorney Birgit Fladager said in a December 1 court filing.
Fladager said earlier this year she would not seek to reinstate the death penalty
after consulting with the victims’ family, who said the “process is simply too painful to endure once again.”
“The People submit to the Court that the only sentence available for this defendant is a sentence of life without the possibility of parole plus 15 years to life for the murders of Laci and Conner,” Peterson’s wife and unborn son, the prosecutor’s December filing stated.
The resentencing comes amid yet another legal tangle in Peterson’s case: In October 2020, the California Supreme Court ordered a lower court to reexamine his murder convictions
because a juror did not disclose involvement in other legal proceedings.
“Juror No. 7 committed prejudicial misconduct by not disclosing her prior involvement with other legal proceedings, including but not limited to being the victim of a crime,” the court wrote.
Peterson’s lawyers said the juror’s answers on her voir dire questionnaire were false, and she committed misconduct, which raised the presumption of prejudice.
Peterson was sentenced to death in 2005 for the 2002 murders of Laci and Conner in what was arguably one of the most publicized trials in recent memory. But in 2020, the state’s highest court found prospective jurors were dismissed in error after they expressed general objections to the death penalty on a questionnaire.
“Here, the trial court erroneously dismissed many prospective jurors because of written questionnaire responses expressing opposition to the death penalty, even though the jurors gave no indication that their views would prevent them from following the law — and, indeed, specifically attested in their questionnaire responses that they would have no such difficulty,” the court wrote in its 2020 decision.
Laci Peterson was more than seven months pregnant when she disappeared just before Christmas 2002. Prosecutors charged that Scott Peterson killed her at their Modesto home, then dumped her body in the San Francisco Bay from a fishing boat he had recently bought.
Laci’s and the baby’s body were found washed ashore, separately, in April 2003.
Peterson has always maintained his innocence, and his appeals have focused on various aspects of the trial, including the publicity surrounding it, the way the jurors were chosen, evidence admitted and not admitted at trial, and on prosecutorial statements.
A slew of circumstantial evidence convinced the jury of his guilt, including testimony from a woman who said she had been dating Peterson — who pretended to be single — and the fact Peterson claimed to be fishing on the San Francisco Bay the day his wife disappeared.
The court on November 23 ordered Peterson to be transported from the San Quinton State Prison to the San Mateo County Jail for the resentencing.
As many as 16 people will speak during the hearing on Peterson’s behalf, according to a filing by the prosecution.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a moratorium on the death penalty in 2019. The moratorium is only in effect while Newsom is in office.
California has not executed an inmate since 2006.