SAN MATEO, Calif. — Scott Peterson was re-sentenced Wednesday in San Mateo County Superior Court nearly 17 years after he was sentenced to death.
Judge Anne-Christine Massullo re-sentenced Peterson to life in prison for the first-degree murder of his wife Laci Peterson. The judge also sentenced Peterson to 15 years to life for the second-degree murder of his unborn son, Connor Peterson — this will be served concurrently with his life sentence.
Judge Massullo said Peterson is not eligible for probation. Peterson will be back in court Feb. 25 - March 4, 2022 for the habeas corpus hearing on the alleged juror misconduct in his trial.
Habeas corpus is a way for a person to report an unlawful imprisonment or detention and return to court to determine whether the detention is unlawful. Judge Masullo will determine if juror misconduct was so significant that it denied him a fair trial.
The juror in question, Richelle Nice, did not disclose that she had a restraining order in 2000 for fear that her boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend could harm her own unborn child.
University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law Professor Mike Vitiello says it is more of a technicality and would be a long shot for getting a new trial.
"Once you have conviction in place, it's typically quite hard for a defendant to get a new trial especially now that the death penalty is off the table," Vitiello said.
At the beginning of the re-sentencing, both the prosecution and defense made opening statements in the re-sentencing of Scott Peterson.
Stanislaus County Deputy District attorney Dave Harris said that Scott Peterson lied multiple times during the investigation in Laci's disappearance and did not feel remorseful after her death.
Scott Peterson's defense attorney, Pat Harris, said the prosecution was making insinuations to paint Peterson in a negative light.
Laci Peterson's family took the stand at the re-sentencing.
Amy Rocha, Laci's half-sister, gave an emotional statement.
"Because of you, [Scott], our holidays have never been the same," Amy Rocha said. "Every Christmas Eve, I'm reminded of the nightmare."
Laci Peterson died on Dec. 24, 2002.
Brent Rocha, Laci's brother, said it is his and his family's hope that the court gives Peterson the most severe punishment to give some justice to Laci and her unborn son, Conner.
Sharon Rocha, Laci's mother, took the stand next and said she hasn't seen any remorse from Peterson.
"Your evil, self-centered, unforgiveable selfish act ended two beautiful souls," Sharon Rocha said. "Everyone here wanted her."
Sharon Rocha also discussed the timeline of events in 2002 leading up to Laci's death and said Peterson bought a boat on Dec. 9, 2002.
Scott Peterson's defense attorney Pat Harris said prior to the revelation that Peterson was romantically involved with a woman named Amber Frey, that witnesses spoke "glowingly" about Peterson.
Pat Harris said attitudes changed when word of Frey was released and said Peterson became "the most hated man in America." He said outside the courtroom during a trial there was a billboard that read "man or monster."
Despite offers to go on television and talk shows, Pat Harris said Peterson chose to respect the legal process to find him not guilty.
"That's not who he is and he has let it go by without complaint," he said.
After the re-sentencing, Pat Harris held a press conference. He said he is hoping the judge rules for a new trial after the hearing in 2022 for alleged juror misconduct.
Once news of the possibility that Scott Peterson could get a new trial was released, Harris said District Attorney's and others began to "demonize" Peterson.
He said Peterson was brought up in a preliminary hearing in San Luis Obispo about the disappearance of Cal Poly student Kristin Smart even though Harris said Peterson had nothing to do with that case.
Scott Peterson's sister-in-law, Janey Peterson, also spoke at the press conference. Janey Peterson has been advocating for Peterson's release for years saying he was wrongfully convicted.
"Our family is in this for the long haul. We will be here in two months. We look forward to Scott being granted a new trial, and when he is, we're going to show that he is innocent," Janey Peterson said.
"Life in prison is not any picnic"
In Modesto, it was a mixed bag of what people thought about the re-sentencing.
Against the death penalty, Joe Costello said he was ok with Scott Peterson being re-sentenced to life behind bars.
"It doesn't really deter crime. And, I think it's a violent response. I think life in prison is not any picnic," Costello said.
At the Chartreuse Muse art gallery downtown, Sandra Veneman had mixed feelings about the re-sentencing. While she's not against the death penalty, she's also not an avid supporter of it.
"Perhaps life in prison is going to be a punishment for Scott Peterson. And, hopefully he reflects, repents. We always hope that we find the truth," Veneman said.
Still, several other people ABC10 spoke to in Modesto believe Peterson should stay on death row in San Quentin.
Peterson will be back in court in spring 2022 for a hearing on the alleged juror misconduct in his trial.
Scott Peterson re-sentenced to life in prison for 2002 murder of wife and unborn child
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