Scott Peterson remains on death row in San Quentin Prison, although his death penalty was overturned and he is seeking a new trial. The fate of Peterson is unclear today as his defense team gathers new evidence in his case.
Peterson is 48 now, according to prison records. The latest news in Peterson’s case was from April 2021, when his attorneys were granted a 60-day extension for discovery in his case. In October 2020, the California Supreme Court decided to send the case back to the San Mateo County Superior Court so the lower court could determine whether he should be granted a new trial. The defense claimed jury misconduct may have changed the verdict in his case, according to ABC News.
The defense team for Peterson argued that Laci was still alive December 24 when Scott Peterson drove to the marina, according to an appeal filed in his case.
ABC 20/20 is revisiting the high-profile case with interviews with Scott Peterson himself and with Amber Frey. Peterson was having an affair with Frey. The new episode, “One Last Chance,” airs at 9 p.m. Eastern time Friday, May 14, 2021.
Here’s what you need to know:
Peterson Is on Death Row at the State’s Only Prison With a Gas Chamber & It Was Built By California Inmates
Peterson is on death row at San Quentin State Prison in Marin County, California, according to his prison records. His parole eligibility is listed as “condemned” as he remains on death row. He was first incarcerated in San Quentin March 17, 2005.
Here is his prison record:
The prison was built in July 1852, constructed by inmates who spent their days building the prison and their nights sleeping on a prison ship, the Waban, according to the California Department of Corrections. The 432-acre prison overlooks the bay and has four cell blocks.
While the prison has the state’s only gas chamber, Peterson would die by lethal injection if he is ever executed. California has not executed an inmate in more than a decade, The Modesto Bee reported.
The Appeal Filed in Peterson’s Case Breaks Down Elements of the Case & New Evidence His Attorneys Plan to Present
If Peterson is granted a new trial, his attorneys are prepared with new evidence to present in his case, including testimony from a person who reported seeing Laci Peterson alive after prosecutors said she was murdered by her husband and testimony about threats made against Laci Peterson from a man she caught burglarizing a house, according to the appeal filed in the case. You can read the appeal in full here.
Regardless of whether Peterson receives a new trial, he will be granted a new sentencing phase after the court found a judge on his case “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,” Fox News. Prosecutors contend Peterson drove to the marina December 24, 2002, to dump his wife’s body, but the defense team said in the appeal they have evidence Laci Peterson was still alive when he drove to the marina.
The murder case was largely based on circumstantial evidence. There was little forensic evidence available in the case because it was four months before Laci Peterson’s body was found, and her remains were badly decomposed.
The state of California relied on three key pieces of evidence to convict Peterson. An expert in fetal growth testified that the unborn child, Conner, was killed December 23 or 24. The evidence was collected from Conner’s leg bone. Another witness testified to dog scent evidence. A dog alerted at the Berkeley Marina, indicating Scott Peterson transported his wife’s body to the marina. Third, a hydrologist testified to body movement in the bay. The witness said Laci Peterson’s body was left at Brooks Island, exactly where Scott Peterson told police he was fishing, according to the appeal.
“In light of this evidence the jury convicted of murder and sentenced Scott to death. It turns out, however, that the jury deciding this case did not have the whole truth — or anything close. As discussed below, it turns out that every part of the state’s forensic evidence was false,” Peterson’s attorneys wrote in the appeal.
Peterson’s defense attorneys picked apart each element of the state’s case in the appeal. His lawyers argue the expert witness who testified about fetal growth was applying the wrong formula to the wrong bones. The length of Conner’s leg bone indicates Laci Peterson was alive until at least January 3, 2003, the appeal said. A dog handler incorrectly misinterpreted the K9’s position and gait when the handler said the dog alerted to a scent, the attorneys argued. Finally, the hydrologist’s testimony was “fundamentally flawed,” the attorneys wrote. Laci Peterson’s body could have been deposited in two separate locations, including a tidal area near a freeway.
The defense team said police told each of the expert witnesses their theory, and the witnesses found evidence to match that theory. They further argued Peterson’s trial lawyers promised to call witnesses who reported seeing Laci Peterson days after she was reported missing, including neighbors who said they saw Laci walking her dog. Another witness, Todd, said after Laci Peterson’s disappearance, she saw him burglarizing a house and confronted him. He reported threatening her during the confrontation. None of those witnesses were called, the appeal said.