Scott Peterson Death Sentence Overturned by California Supreme Court

Peterson’s murder conviction for the killing of his wife, Laci Peterson, and their unborn child was upheld by the court

The Supreme Court of California has overturned the 2005 death sentence of Scott Peterson but has upheld the murder conviction against Peterson for the killing of his wife, Laci Peterson, and their unborn child.

In a Monday decision, the court rejected Peterson’s claim that he had an unfair trial but determined that 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.”

“Under United States Supreme Court precedent, these errors require us to reverse the death sentence in this case,” Justice Leondra Kruger wrote in the unanimous decision, adding that prosecutors may retry the penalty phase if they choose.

The court’s decision comes 16 years after Peterson was convicted by a jury for the first-degree murder of his pregnant wife and the second-degree murder of their unborn son following Laci Peterson’s 2002 disappearance from her home in Modesto. At the time, prosecutors said that Scott Peterson had “strangled or smothered” Laci, wrapped her in a blue tarp, drove her body out to the San Francisco Bay, attached concrete weights to her body and dumped her into the water. Following Peterson’s murder conviction, the presiding judge sentenced him to death in early 2005. The high-profile case, which was heavily covered in the media at the time, was also depicted in the 2017 A&E miniseries “The Murder of Laci Peterson.”

Last year, Gov. Gavin Newsom also placed a moratorium on the death penalty in California. The state has not executed an inmate on death row since 2006.

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.