Scott Peterson, the man convicted of the 2002 murder of his wife and unborn child, will be sentenced to life in prison on Wednesday after spending more than a decade on death row.
Peterson’s new sentencing comes after the California Supreme Court last year annulled his death sentence by the improper selection of the judges for bias and then said a the lower court must determine if you get a new test. However, the court did not overturn his conviction and said considerable circumstantial evidence incriminated Peterson.
Superior Court Judge Anne-Christine Massullo will rule on Peterson’s sentence first and plans to hold a hearing next year to consider whether jury misconduct harmed Peterson.
Prosecutors did not request the death penalty again and Wednesday’s hearing is expected to be short.
Peterson was convicted of first degree murder for the death of his wife Laci Peterson and second degree murder for the death of their unborn child.
The high-profile case gripped the nation when prosecutors said Peterson dumped the bodies from a boat on Christmas Eve 2002, and the remains were washed ashore in April 2003 from San Francisco Bay.
Annulment of the death penalty:California Superior Court overturns death penalty for Scott Peterson for murder of pregnant wife
The search for Laci Peterson generated thousands of public leads as investigators searched for clues as to what led to her disappearance. Scott Peterson was eventually arrested after a masseur told investigators that they started dating a month before Laci Peterson’s death and that Scott Peterson told him that his wife was dead.
At Wednesday’s hearing, up to 16 of Laci Peterson’s friends and family will be allowed in the courtroom, as well as up to 16 of Scott Peterson’s.
Pat Harris, one of Peterson’s defense attorneys, said his client is prepared to speak if the judge allows it. “This would be the first (time) that he has spoken substantively about the case,” Harris said.
Laci Peterson’s family will be able to speak and prosecutors await statements from her mother and siblings.
The new ruling comes after state Supreme Court justices said the trial judge “made a number of clear and significant errors in jury selection that, under the precedent of the United States Supreme Court, it undermined Peterson’s right to an impartial jury in the sanction phase. “
Some jurors were wrongly removed after saying that they personally disagreed with the death penalty, but could impose it under the law, the judges ruled.
However, when considering whether Peterson should receive a new trial, the judge will examine whether false answers from a jury during the selection process hurt Peterson. Her defense says that she tried to join the jury.
The jury did not reveal that she had been beaten by a boyfriend while pregnant and requested a restraining order against a boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend, in which she said she feared for her unborn child.
Contributing: The Associated Press