California prosecutors plan to pursue the death penalty for convicted murderer Scott Peterson again, two months after the sentence was overturned. Peterson spent more than 15 years on death row for the 2002 murder of his wife Laci Peterson and their unborn son until late August, when the California Supreme Court overturned the sentence. The murder convictions were left in place, although the court also ordered a San Mateo County Superior Court trial judge to re-examine the convictions earlier this month.
Peterson, 48, appeared in court remotely from San Quentin State Prison during Friday's hearing. Stanislaus County Assistant District Attorney Dave Harris told a Modesto judge they are still "on track to retry the (death penalty) case," reports NBC News. Peterson's attorney, Pat Harris, said his team was unaware of the decision to seek the death penalty before the hearing and asked for more time to prepare.
In August, the California Supreme Court overturned Peterson's death penalty sentence, writing that some potential jurors were not dismissed correctly. "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 wrote at the time. Still, the judges rejected Peterson's claim he received an "unfair trial." They did not overturn the murder conviction.
A few weeks later, though, the same court ordered a San Mateo trial judge to re-examine the murder convictions, which could lead to them being overturned. The court said there was an issue with one of the jurors who did end up on the jury, Richelle Nice. She did not report that she had a restraining order against her boyfriend's ex-girlfriend, who allegedly harassed Nice, at the time of Peterson's trial. The Supreme Court ordered the lower court to determine if Peterson should get a new trial because the juror "committed prejudicial misconduct by not disclosing her prior involvement with other legal proceedings, including but not limited to being the victim of a crime."
After Friday's hearing, Harris told reporters Peterson is "innocent," adding that an "innocent man has been sitting in jail for 15 years" and "it's time to get him out," reports ABC News. Harris was on Peterson's original defense team with celebrity attorney Mark Geragos. Peterson's sister-in-law Janey said the family is hoping Peterson has a new day in court. "We don't have justice for Laci with Scott on death row because Scott is," she said.
Laci went missing on Christmas Eve, 2002, and was eight months pregnant with their son Connor. Four months later, her body was found in San Francisco Bay. The case drew international attention and he was sentenced to death in 2005. The next court date in the case was set for Nov. 6.