California’s highest court overturned Scott Peterson’s death sentence Monday — although it still left the door open for the man who killed his pregnant wife to be executed.
The state Supreme Court balked at the notion that Peterson — who in 2002 murdered wife Laci, 27, to be with his mistress — was wrongfully convicted because of jury bias.
“Peterson contends his trial was flawed for multiple reasons, beginning with the unusual amount of pretrial publicity that surrounded the case,” the court said. “We reject Peterson’s claim that he received an unfair trial as to guilt and thus affirm his convictions for murder.”
But the court did agree that Peterson’s 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.
“While a court may dismiss a prospective juror as unqualified to sit on a capital case if the juror’s views on capital punishment would substantially impair his or her ability to follow the law, a juror may not be dismissed merely because he or she has expressed opposition to the death penalty as a general matter,” the court’s judges wrote in their unanimous opinion.
Still, the decision allows prosecutors to seek the death penalty again against Peterson.
He was convicted of first-degree murder for Laci’s death and second-degree murder for their unborn son, Connor. Laci was eight months pregnant when she was killed by her husband.
Stanislaus County District Attorney Birgit Fladager, whose office would retry the penalty phase of the case, did not immediately comment.
With Post wires
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