The California Supreme Court has ordered a second look at Scott Peterson’s conviction for killing his pregnant wife and unborn son, less than two months after it overturned his death penalty. The court sent the case back to San Mateo County Superior Court to determine whether Peterson should receive a new trial, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The court said a juror committed “prejudicial misconduct” by failing to disclose that she had been involved with other legal proceedings. The juror had filed a lawsuit in 2000 to obtain a restraining order after her boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend harassed her while she was pregnant, the Times said.
The juror said she feared for her unborn child. Yet when asked as a potential juror whether she had ever been a crime victim or involved in a lawsuit, she answered no, Peterson’s attorneys told the Times.
The Modesto Bee reported that the California Supreme Court made the ruling Tuesday in response to Peterson’s petition for habeas corpus filed in 2015.
In a case that garnered worldwide attention, Peterson was convicted in 2004 of first-degree murder of Laci Peterson, 27, who was eight months pregnant. He also was convicted of second-degree murder of his unborn son, Connor.
He has maintained his innocence.
Laci Peterson disappeared on Christmas Eve 2002. Her husband, who was living in Modesto, told police that he had left that morning to go fishing in Berkeley.
Prosecutors contended that Peterson dumped their bodies from his fishing boat into San Francisco Bay, where their bodies washed ashore nearly four months later. They were found a few miles from where Peterson had said he was fishing.
Investigators chased nearly 10,000 tips and considered parolees and convicted sex offenders as possible suspects. Peterson was eventually arrested after Amber Frey, a massage therapist living in Fresno, told police that they had begun dating a month before his wife’s death, but that he had told her his wife was dead.
In August, the state Supreme Court overturned Peterson’s death sentence. The justices cited “significant errors” in jury selection.
The court said potential jurors were improperly dismissed after saying they personally disagreed with the death penalty but would be willing to follow the law and impose it.
CBS San Francisco reported that Peterson’s attorney, Cliff Gardner, filed a 423-page document with the court, appealing the conviction. Gardner claimed in the appeal that the overwhelming publicity Peterson’s trial received, incorrect evidentiary rulings, and other mistakes deprived him of a fair trial. Peterson was convicted after a trial that his attorney argues surpassed the O.J. Simpson murder trial in terms of publicity.
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