A California judge on Wednesday resentenced convicted murderer and former death row inmate Scott Peterson to life in prison without the possibility of parole in the 2002 slayings of his pregnant wife and unborn son.
Peterson, wearing his prison garb and surrounded by a three-member defense team in a Redwood City courtroom Wednesday, was sentenced to death in 2005 and has spent more than 15 years on death row, but the California Supreme Court tossed out his sentence last year, and prosecutors say they won't again seek to have him executed.
Family members of 27-year-old Laci Peterson, who was eight months pregnant at the time of her killing, made statements during the resentencing hearing.
Sharon Rocha, Laci's mother, noted Laci would have been 46 and Conner would have been 18.
"You betrayed her and your son and everyone else," she said, speaking directly to Peterson. "You ended two beautiful souls. ... Two things never change: Laci and Conner will always be dead, and you will always be their murderer."
Laci's half-sister Amy Rocha spoke through tears: "Nineteen years, and there's not a day that goes by that I don't think about my sister."
Peterson also was expected to break his silence after 20 years, according to his attorney Pat Harris, but Harris essentially spoke for him, foreshadowing a possible retrial, saying Peterson maintains his innocence and "there wasn't a single thing that could be presented at the trial that showed he had any inclination of violence."
"This man cares a great deal, this man cares a lot," Harris said in rebuttal to Rocha family statements that Peterson shows no remorse. Harris added that Laci's family "has every right to be upset and angry; it's just not the same facts that we believe exist."
Peterson has appeared in previous hearings through a remote link from San Quentin State Prison, home to California's death row, but was present in person for his resentencing. He was transported to San Mateo County Jail last week from San Quentin ahead of the resentencing hearing.
The high court ruled last year that jurors who personally disagreed with the death penalty but were willing to impose it were improperly dismissed.
It separately ordered Superior Court Judge Anne-Christine Massullo to decide if Peterson must receive an entirely new trial because of juror misconduct.
An evidentiary hearing is scheduled in February to determine if Peterson will receive a new trial, the Modesto Bee reported.
Peterson’s lawyers contend the woman known as Juror 7 falsely answered questions during the selection process as she sought to join the jury. She later coauthored a book on the case.
Supreme Court justices said there was considerable circumstantial evidence incriminating Peterson in the first-degree murder of his wife and the second-degree murder of the boy they planned to name Conner.
Prosecutors said Peterson took his wife’s body from their Modesto home on Christmas Eve 2002 and dumped her in San Francisco Bay from his fishing boat. The bodies washed ashore in April 2003.
Defense attorneys say they have new evidence that nearby burglars may have committed the crime, though investigators say they were ruled out as suspects.
To get the chance to prove it, Peterson's attorneys must persuade Massullo that the juror was biased because she had been a crime victim, something she did not disclose during jury selection.
It was later learned that the woman had been beaten by a boyfriend while she was pregnant in 2001. She also didn’t reveal that during another pregnancy she had obtained a restraining order against a boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend because she was fearful the woman would harm her unborn child.