Scott Peterson, the man convicted in the 2002 killing of his wife and unborn child, is to be resentenced to life in prison Wednesday after spending more than a decade on death row.
Peterson’s resentencing comes after California’s Supreme Court last year overturned his death sentence for the improper screening of jurors for bias and later said a lower court should determine whether he gets a new trial. The court, however, did not overturn his conviction and said considerable circumstantial evidence incriminated Peterson.
Superior Court Judge Anne-Christine Massullo will rule first on Peterson’s sentencing and plans to hold a hearing next year to consider whether juror misconduct prejudiced Peterson.
Prosecutors were not seeking the death penalty again, and the hearing Wednesday is expected to be brief.
Peterson was convicted of first-degree murder in wife Laci Peterson’s death and second-degree murder in the death of their unborn son.
The high-profile case gripped the nation as prosecutors said Peterson dumped the bodies off a boat on Christmas Eve 2002, and the remains later washed ashore in April 2003 from the San Francisco Bay.
Death penalty overturned:California high court overturns death penalty for Scott Peterson in slaying of pregnant wife
The search for Laci Peterson drew thousands of public tips as investigators hunted for clues about what led to her disappearance. Scott Peterson was ultimately arrested after a massage therapist told investigators they began dating a month before Laci Peterson’s death and that Scott Peterson told her his wife was dead.
At Wednesday’s hearing, up to 16 of Laci Peterson’s friends and family will be allowed to be 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 him. “This would be the first (time) that he speaks substantively about the case,” Harris said.
Laci Peterson’s family will be allowed to speak, and prosecutors expect statements from her mother and siblings.
The new sentencing comes after state Supreme Court justices said the trial judge “made a series of clear and significant errors in jury selection that, under long-standing United States Supreme Court precedent, undermined Peterson’s right to an impartial jury at the penalty phase.”
Some jurors were improperly dismissed after saying they personally disagreed with the death penalty but could impose it in following the law, the justices ruled.
However, in considering whether Peterson should get a new trial, the judge will look at whether a juror’s false answers during the selection process prejudiced Peterson. His defense says she sought to join the jury.
The juror did not disclose that she had been beaten by a boyfriend while pregnant and sought a restraining order against a boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend, in which she said she feared for her unborn child.
Contributing: The Associated Press