Judge Grants Scott Peterson Status Hearing Following Filings By La Innocence Project

Less than two months after the Los Angeles Innocence Project started working on the case of convicted murderer Scott Peterson, a judge in San Mateo County, California, has set a status hearing.

The LA Innocence Project will defend Peterson, according to the court, and the status hearing is expected in response to the group’s request for fresh evidence from the initial trial in an attempt to exonerate him.

The court has stated that Peterson will appear remotely for the hearing. His attorney from the LA Innocence Project will appear in person before Judge Elizabeth Hill.

Laci Peterson, who was 27 years old and eight months pregnant, went missing on Christmas Eve in 2002. Her body was discovered in San Francisco Bay in April 2003.

Scott Peterson, 51, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder for his wife’s death and second-degree murder for their unborn baby. He was found guilty in 2004 and condemned to death in 2005. He was later convicted of life without parole.

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Attorneys with the LA Innocence Project claimed that Scott Peterson’s state and federal constitutional rights were violated, including a “claim of actual innocence that is supported by newly discovered evidence,” according to court filings. ABC News reported on this in January.

“New evidence now supports Mr. Peterson’s longstanding claim of innocence and raises many questions about who abducted and killed Laci and Conner Peterson,” according to the court papers.

According to the documents, his attorneys are looking for dozens of items that they claim they couldn’t find after reviewing his prior counsel’s trial files “after a thorough search.” According to the documents, the items include evidence from the investigations into a December 2002 burglary of a property across the street from the Petersons in Modesto, Stanislaus County, Laci Peterson’s lost Croton watch, and a van fire in the Airport District on December 25, 2002. They are also looking for documentation from interviews with multiple witnesses.

Paula Mitchell, the director of the LA Innocence Project, previously stated that she discovered “deficiencies” while reviewing the discovery of Scott Peterson’s case and sent a letter to Stanislaus County District Attorney Jeff Laugero on Nov. 14, 2023, “seeking informal production of numerous specific items of post-conviction discovery,” according to a declaration included in the filings.

The e-mail “includes private identifying information concerning numerous citizens, potential material witnesses, and possible suspects, as well as sensitive investigative leads relating to Mr. Peterson’s claim of innocence—information that was referenced throughout various police reports, tip sheets, and other investigative materials from both the prosecution and the defense that I reviewed,” she said in her statement.

Mitchell further stated that because of the case’s high profile, “numerous witnesses” had expressed hesitancy or “outright unwillingness” to provide information.

Scott Peterson, who pleaded not guilty, has maintained his innocence and alleged that his trial was unfair due to potential jury misconduct. His lawyers had previously claimed that a lady known as Juror 7 did not reveal her involvement in other court cases.

According to court filings, the California Supreme Court overturned Scott Peterson’s execution sentence in 2020 because his jury was inappropriately screened for anti-death penalty bias.

In December 2021, he was resentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole and removed from execution row in October 2022.

In December 2022, Superior Court Judge Anne-Christine Massullo refused Scott Peterson’s plea for “relief” based on stealth jury charges.

Pat Harris, Scott Peterson’s attorney, previously stated to ABC News that they are “thrilled to have the incredibly skilled attorneys at the LA Innocence Project and their expertise becoming involved in the efforts to prove Scott’s innocence.”

The LA Innocence Project, which provides pro bono legal services to those incarcerated in Central and Southern California who may have been unfairly convicted, stated in January that it is representing Peterson and “investigating his claim of actual innocence.”

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