Scott Peterson Won't Face New Death Sentence for Murders of Wife and Unborn Baby

A California district attorney’s office will not seek to restore Scott Peterson's death penalty that the state's Supreme Court reversed last year, according to court documents obtained by E! News.

By Corinne Heller May 29, 2021 5:48 PMTags
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A California district attorney will not seek a new death penalty for Scott Peterson, less than a year after the state Supreme Court reversed his capital punishment sentence for the 2002 killing of his wife Laci Peterson and their unborn son, Conner.

The news comes a month after the 48-year-old appeared in court for a hearing and a judge granted his lawyers 60 days to provide a discovery request to try to get a waiver for a retrial for the death penalty phase. Later this year, a superior court judge is expected to rule on whether Scott will receive a new trial on the charges following the Supreme Court's reversal of his death sentence last summer due to problems with jury selection. He has been on death row since 2005 and maintains his innocence.

"The People have met and discussed with the victims' family what a new penalty trial would involve, pursuant to their rights under Marsy's Law," read court documents from the Stanislaus County DA's Office filed on Friday, May 28, and obtained by E! News. "While the family of Laci and Conner believe there is no doubt that defendant is guilty of these crimes and that his conduct warrants the death penalty and defendant is deserving of the punishment of death, the family has decided this process is simply too painful to endure once again."

The documents continued, "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. Therefore, notice is hereby given that the Office of the District Attorney will not re-try the penalty phase for defendant Scott Lee Peterson. Accordingly, the People respectfully request that this Court set a date for defendant's sentencing."

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In 2004, a jury found Scott guilty of first-degree murder for the death of Laci, who was 27 years old and eight months pregnant at the time, and second-degree murder for the death of their unborn baby, Conner. Prosecutors said he killed them at their home in Modesto, Calif. and then dumped their bodies in the San Francisco Bay. Laci was reported missing on Christmas Eve 2002. Her body washed up ashore months later. Following his murder conviction, Scott was sentenced to death in one of the most high-profile murder trials in U.S. history.

But last August, California's Supreme Court reversed his death sentence, citing "clear and significant errors in jury selection," while rejecting an appeal of his murder conviction. However, in October, following efforts by Scott's lawyers, the case was sent back to trial court to review the same conviction, while prosecutors vowed to again seek the death penalty for him in an expected retrial of his penalty phase.

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On Friday, May 28, a post made by an official Facebook page for Scott's family and supporters read, "We are grateful that Stanislaus County is no longer seeking to put Scott to death, but it's #Time4aNewTrial."

The chances of Scott actually being put to death in California, which has not executed a condemned inmate since 2006, were slim. In 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom issued a moratorium on the death penalty, which is to remain in effect as long as he is in office. Last month, a Republican-led effort received enough valid signatures to warrant a new election to try to recall him.