New Scott Peterson Death Penalty Ruling: What It Means

On Monday, California's Supreme Court reversed the death sentence that was given to Scott Peterson for the deaths of his wife, Laci, and their unborn son. What exactly does this mean concerning Peterson's prior convictions in the 2002 deaths of his wife and son? According to CNN, the murder convictions still stand, and the high court found that his trial was fair. An appeal regarding his death sentence was initially filed in 2012. The court subsequently found that potential jurors for the case were dismissed erroneously partly because they expressed general objections to the death penalty in a questionnaire.

"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 opinion stated. They went on to express that nothing in those questionnaires would have made potential jurors unable to vote for the death penalty if the circumstances in the case called for it. Their opinion continued, "The death sentence must be reversed, and the People given another opportunity to seek that penalty before a properly selected jury if they so choose."

Laci went missing from her Modesto home shortly before Christmas in 2002. Peterson later reported that she was missing. At the time, she was seven months pregnant. A woman later came forward amidst the months-long search for Laci and shared that she had been having an affair with Peterson. Laci's body and that of her son washed up in San Francisco Bay in April of 2003. Peterson was subsequently arrested. A jury later found him guilty of first-degree murder for Laci's death and second-degree murder for their son, who was to be named Conner. He was sentenced to death in December of 2004. In light of the news that his death sentence was overturned, Peterson's attorney, Cliff Gardner, released a statement in which he thanked California's Supreme Court for their decision.

"We are grateful for the California Supreme Court's unanimous recognition that if the state wishes to put someone to death, it must proceed to trial only with a fairly selected jury. Prosecutors may not rely on a jury specifically organized by the state to return a verdict of death," Gardner said. "In deciding whether to seek a new death sentence, the question for prosecutors now is whether they can prove Mr. Peterson culpable for this crime to even a single juror seated through a fair jury selection process."