California judge weighs new trial for Scott Peterson in death of his pregnant wife

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Scott Peterson listens to prosecutor Joseph Distaso respond to defense attorney Mark Geragos' petition for dismissing double murder charges against Peterson Jan. 14, 2004, in Modesto, California. (Bart Ah You-Pool/Getty Images)

Scott Peterson listens to prosecutor Joseph Distaso respond to defense attorney Mark Geragos’ petition for dismissing double murder charges against Peterson Jan. 14, 2004, in Modesto, California. (Bart Ah You-Pool/Getty Images)

A California judge said Wednesday that she anticipates a two-week hearing early next year before she decides if Scott Peterson deserves a new trial in the 2002 death of his pregnant wife.

That’s more than a year after the California Supreme Court ordered Superior Court Judge Anne-Christine Massullo to consider if juror misconduct was so significant that it denied him a fair trial.

Massullo is expected to hear testimony from juror Richelle Nice, who is at the center of the dispute and has denied that she was influenced by her own background of domestic abuse. Nice is identified in court papers as Juror 7. But she co-authored a book about the case with six other jurors.

That hearing would get to “the meat and potatoes of what the juror’s information is,” Deputy Stanislaus County District Attorney Dave Harris said.

Laci Peterson, 27, was eight months pregnant with their unborn son, Connor, when she was killed.

Massullo must decide if Nice committed “prejudicial misconduct” by failing to disclose that she had sought a restraining order in 2000 for fear that her boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend could harm Nice’s own unborn child.

Peterson’s attorneys revealed in a June court filing that Nice also failed to disclose that her boyfriend beat her in 2001 while she was pregnant with another child.

As a perspective juror, Nice had answered “no” when she was asked if she had ever been involved in a lawsuit or been a crime victim.

Nice said in a court filing that she didn’t think the restraining order was a lawsuit, nor did she “feel ‘victimized’ the way the law might define that term.”

Massullo said she had wanted to schedule the evidentiary hearing for October, and she might still try to do it in early November. But she said delays in gathering evidence and sworn witness testimony, partly because of the coronavirus pandemic, make it more likely she will schedule the hearing for two weeks in late January or early February, after the winter holidays.

She expects to set the dates during a Sept. 22 hearing after considering several legal filings in the meantime.

Peterson, 48, participated in Wednesday’s hearing through a telephone link from San Quentin State Prison, home of California’s death row. The state Supreme Court separately overturned Peterson’s death sentence last year over unrelated faulty juror selection, and prosecutors said they won’t again seek to have him executed.

If Peterson gets a new trial, his attorney has said he will present new evidence bolstering the defense theory that Laci Peterson was killed when she stumbled upon a nearby burglary.

Investigators said that on Christmas Eve 2002, Peterson dumped the bodies from his fishing boat into San Francisco Bay, where they surfaced months later.

The state’s high court last year said that there was considerable circumstantial evidence incriminating Peterson in the slayings.

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