Scott Peterson faces new life sentence in wife’s 2002 death

SACRAMENTO, CA (Associated Press) – Nearly 17 years after being sentenced to death, Scott Peterson will be sentenced Wednesday to life in prison for the 2002 murders of his pregnant wife and unborn son, which ravaged the world then and since. now.

The California Supreme Court ruled a year ago that his jury was improperly examined for bias against the death penalty. Stanislaus County District Attorney Birgit Flader, who rose to fame as one of three prosecutors in the Peterson trial, this time opted for a life-without parole settlement.

Wednesday’s session is expected to be short but potentially emotional, with comments from some members of the family of 27-year-old Lacy Peterson, who was eight months pregnant when she was killed carrying the boy the couple planned to name Connor.

“You’ll burn in hell for this,” Lacy’s father, Dennis Rocha, who died in 2018, shouted at Peterson during his first sentencing. “Your life is over.”

Up to 16 of her family and friends sit in the jury box, and up to 16 of his supporters elsewhere in the courtroom.

Prosecutors say they expect written or spoken statements from Lacey’s mother, Sharon Rocha, and her brother and sister, Brent Rocha and Amy Rocha.

Defense attorney Pat Harris said Tuesday that Peterson is willing to speak if the judge allows it, something Peterson did not do during his initial trial and sentencing.

“This will be the first time he has been objectively speaking about the case,” said Harris, who was also involved in the original trial. Peterson’s supporters are also expected in the courtroom to show their support, but are not allowed to speak.

Supreme Court Justice Anne Kristen Masulo, who will resent Peterson, is separately examining whether Peterson was prejudiced by juror misconduct.

But she chose to resent Peterson first, over his attorney’s objections, to resolve the issue of his situation.

He’s been in San Quentin State Prison, the California death row home, since he was sentenced to death in March 2005. This followed his conviction in November 2004 during a trial that was moved 90 miles (145 km) to San Mateo County due to global publicity.

But Masulo said he could not remain on death row once prosecutors said they would not again seek his execution. He has since been transferred to the county jail to appeal his sentence and is expected to remain there until Massullo decides whether he should get a new trial.

She plans to hold a week-long hearing from February 25 through March 4 to hear the defense’s allegations that the woman known as Juror 7 incorrectly answered questions during the selection process.

They say that she actively sought to join the jury and later co-authored a book on the case. Rachel Ness is not named in the court papers, but he co-authored the book with six other jurors.

Defense attorneys maintain that she was biased because she was the victim of a crime, which she did not disclose during jury selection. They only later learned that she had been beaten by her boyfriend in 2001 when she was pregnant. She got a restraining order during another pregnancy against her boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend because she was afraid the woman would harm her unborn child.

Ness said in the lawsuit that she did not believe the restraining order was a lawsuit she should have disclosed on the jury form, and that she also “did not feel like a ‘victim’ in the way the law might define the term.”

Massullo will have 90 days after next year’s hearing to decide whether Peterson should get a new trial.

Prosecutors say Peterson took his wife’s body from their Modesto home on Christmas Eve 2002 and dumped it from his fishing boat in San Francisco Bay, where they washed it ashore in April 2003.

Defense attorneys say new evidence points to nearby thieves, though investigators say they are ruled out as suspects.

In their August 2020 decision to overturn his death sentence, Supreme Court justices said there was significant circumstantial evidence incriminating Peterson in first-degree murder and second-degree murder of Connor.

This included that the bodies were washed ashore near where Peterson admitted he had been fishing on the day they disappeared. He researched the ocean currents, bought a boat without telling anyone, and couldn’t explain what kind of fish he was trying to catch that day.

Also, in the weeks after Lacey’s disappearance, but before the bodies were washed ashore, he sold his wife’s car, considered selling their home, and converted the children’s nursery into a storage room.

Peterson was eventually arrested after Amber Fry, a massage therapist who lives in Fresno, told police that they had started dating a month before his wife’s death, but told her his wife had died.

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