(CNN) — Scott Peterson has again been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the deaths of his wife and unborn child, a California judge ruled Wednesday.
Peterson, 49, was convicted in 2004 of the murders of his wife Laci and their unborn son Conner. He was originally sentenced to death.
In August 2020, the California Supreme Court reversed Peterson’s death sentence after finding that potential jurors were mistakenly removed, in part because they voiced general objections to the death penalty in a questionnaire.
Judge Anne-Christine Massullo on Wednesday ordered Peterson to serve a life sentence without the possibility of parole for the premeditated murder of Laci and a simultaneous sentence of 15 years to life in prison for the willful murder of Conner.
Members of Laci Peterson’s family tearfully addressed Peterson in court.
“You didn’t want the responsibility of being a father. You are a coward,” Laci’s mother, Sharon Rocha, said.
He also spoke of the young man Conner never became.
“He would already be 18 years old. 10 months ago, you would have been free of child support and you wouldn’t have to worry about being responsible for a child,” Rocha said.
But he said two things will never change: “Laci and Conner will always be dead, and you will always be their killer.”
The legal saga that led to a new sentence
Laci Peterson, Conner’s seven months pregnant, was reported missing on December 24, 2002. Their bodies were washed ashore and found separately in April 2003.
A jury convicted Scott of his murders and he was formally sentenced to death in 2005.
Before Wednesday, Peterson had been in limbo since the California Supreme Court overturned his death sentence in August 2020 for murder his wife and unborn child.
Stanislaus County District Attorney Birgit Fladager said earlier this year that would not seek to reinstate the death penalty after consulting with the families of the victims, who said that “the process is simply too painful to bear again.”
The new sentence comes amid another legal mess in Peterson’s case: In October 2020, the California Supreme Court ordered a lower court to re-examine his murder convictions because a jury did not reveal his involvement in another trial. legal.
“Juror No. 7 committed an injurious injurious offense by failing to disclose her prior involvement in other legal proceedings, including, but not limited to, being a victim of a crime,” the court wrote.
Peterson’s attorneys said the jury’s responses to their questionnaire see say they were false and that she committed a fault, which raised the presumption of prejudice.
Peterson was sentenced to death in 2005 for the 2002 murders of Laci and Conner in what was arguably one of the most publicized trials in recent memory. But in 2020, the state’s highest court ruled that prospective jurors were mistakenly removed after they voiced general objections to the death penalty in the questionnaire.
“In this case, the trial court mistakenly dismissed many potential jurors due to responses to a written questionnaire expressing opposition to the death penalty, even though the jurors gave no indication of that their views prevented them from following the law and, in fact, they specifically expressed in the questionnaire that their responses would not have such difficulty, “the court wrote in its 2020 decision.
Prosecutors charged that Scott Peterson killed her at her Modesto home and then dumped her body in San Francisco Bay from a fishing boat she had recently purchased.
Peterson has always maintained his innocence and his appeals have focused on various aspects of the trial, including the publicity surrounding it, the way the jurors were chosen, the evidence admitted and not admitted at trial, and the statements of the prosecution.
A host of circumstantial evidence confirmed his guilt to the jury, including testimony from a woman who said she had been dating Peterson, who pretended to be single, and the fact that Peterson claimed to be fishing in San Francisco Bay on the day in that his wife disappeared.
On November 23, the court ordered Peterson to be transported from the San Quentin State Prison to the San Mateo County Jail for the new sentence.
Governor Gavin Newsom issued a moratorium on the death penalty in 2019. The moratorium is only in effect while Newsom is in office.
California has not executed an inmate since 2006.
CNN’s Aya Elamroussi, Alexandra Meeks, and Stella Chan contributed to this report.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism