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Stanislaus County DA won't seek new death sentence against Scott Peterson

A court document says the death penalty was dropped to keep the victims' family from having to go through a process that is "simply too painful to endure once again.

STANISLAUS COUNTY, Calif. — The Stanislaus County District Attorney's Office will no longer pursue the death penalty against convicted murderer Scott Peterson, according to court documents. 

Peterson was convicted of killing his wife and unborn child, who vanished in 2002. Their bodies washed ashore months later in the San Francisco Bay. 

In a filing Friday, the Stanislaus County District Attorney's Office said it would drop efforts to restore the penalty that was thrown out in 2020 by the state Supreme Court. Justices said the death sentence couldn't stand because potential jurors were excluded after saying they disagreed with the death penalty.

Pat Harris is one of Peterson's lawyers. He said an appellate attorney on their legal team was served with a notice that the death penalty has been dropped. A court document confirming the move was filed Friday. 

A court document says the death penalty was dropped to keep the victims' family from having to go through a process that is "simply too painful to endure once again."

By no longer pursuing the death penalty, Peterson faces a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole, according to court documents.

"The decision to accept the sentence for defendant of Life Without the Possibility of Parole followed discussions with the family of the victims, Laci and Conner; they are aware that, if the penalty phase is not retried the defendant will be sentenced to Life Without the Possibility of Parole," reads court documents.

Harris says the move from the Stanislaus County DA was not something their legal team was pushing for. They still want their day in court and Harris says he believes this decision was done simply because the DA knows Peterson's legal team can prove who really killed Laci Peterson and her unborn child. 

"My only comment is that this is once again just a continuation of the demonization of Scott Peterson," said Harris. "It looks like we were going to have a chance to prove in front of an unbiased party, the jury, who committed this murder. They don't want to move forward."

Peterson's trial riveted the nation and he was convicted of murdering his wife and their unborn son. He maintains his innocence and a judge is considering whether to grant a new trial because of juror misconduct.

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