SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California prosecutors say they won’t again seek the death penalty against Scott Peterson in the 2002 slaying of his pregnant wife even if he is granted a new trial based on juror misconduct.
But Superior Court Judge Anne-Christine Massullo says even that declaration Tuesday isn't enough to entirely take a death sentence off the table because laws and prosecutors can change.
Massullo is considering if Peterson should get a new trial in the 2002 death of Laci Peterson, who was eight months pregnant at the time of her death. Peterson's attorney says prosecutors may change their decision not to seek the death penalty if there is a new trial.
"This case is going to get overturned, eventually," said Scott Peterson's attorney, Pat Harris, outside the San Mateo County courthouse in Redwood City. "The facts are coming out. More and more we're learning what happened. We think we know who killed Laci Peterson. We think that information is coming out. Will come out."
Not pursuing the death penalty is a big blow to the defense, according to University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law professor Mike Vitilleo, who specializes in criminal law.
"So, the prosecutor without family enthusiastic participation loses the most powerful evidence to support the death penalty," Vitilleo said.
There still remains the question of alleged juror misconduct. The judge may decide if one juror failed to disclose during jury selection a restraining order against her boyfriend's ex-girlfriend.
In her filing, the juror expressed fear for her unborn child.
Vitiello believes the juror misconduct issue or so-called "habeas corpus" is a long shot for the defense.
"This seems like a fairly technical objection that is not likely to lead to a new trial on the merits, Vitiello said.
"They have the right, if the habeas comes back, to put the death penalty on the table," said Harris.
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