Scott Peterson murder case returns to court with LA Innocence Project focusing on DNA evidence

Wednesday, March 13, 2024
Scott Peterson case returns to court; new defense focusing on DNA
Convicted murderer Scott Peterson appeared virtually before a San Mateo County judge Tuesday as part of his effort to get a new trial.

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. -- Convicted killer Scott Peterson appeared in San Mateo County Superior Court on Tuesday, asking for a new trial. A jury convicted him of killing his pregnant wife, Laci, in 2002 and dumping her body in San Francisco Bay. This hearing was largely procedural, setting dates for future legal briefs, replies and hearings. It is an immense undertaking, going through all the evidence to decide if Peterson deserves another trial.

On my cell phone, I captured the executive director of the Los Angeles Innocence Project entering the courtroom with Scott Peterson's half-brother and his sister-in-law, Janey Peterson. She became a lawyer to fight for his acquittal.

Inside, Scott Peterson, now 51, appeared from Mule Creek Prison 40 miles outside Sacramento with a new pony tail. He only addressed the court a few times, here to say he would also appear at future hearings by Zoom.

Scott Peterson appeared virtually before a San Mateo County judge Tuesday March 12, 2024.
Scott Peterson appeared virtually before a San Mateo County judge Tuesday March 12, 2024.

Judge Elizabeth Hill, San Mateo County Superior Court: "Mr. Peterson, is that correct?"

Scott Peterson: "Yes, your honor."

The LA Innocence Project filed a 1,500-page brief with exhibits asking for a new trial, based on what it claims is evidence withheld from Peterson's defense team.

Paula Mitchell, the group's executive director, told the court, "The defense was entitled to those at the time of trial. Mr. Peterson has been waiting 20 years to find some of these police reports and audio recordings and video recordings that should have been provided."

RELATED: Judge grants Scott Peterson status hearing after LA Innocence Project filings

Court records show the LA Innocence Project is focusing on:

  • A van found torched a mile away from the Peterson home the day after Laci disappeared, with a mattress that tested positive for blood. That sample appears not to have been compared to Laci's blood.
  • Several witnesses who claim to have spotted Laci talking to the occupants of that van, seen near a burglary across the street from her home...
  • And, other witnesses who claim to have seen Laci alive in the hours after Scott left for a fishing trip the morning of Christmas Eve 2002.

The original prosecuting attorneys from the Peterson trial are back to handle this appeal, asking for more time to file an answer to that massive LA Innocence Project motion.

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Dave Harris of the Stanislaus County DA's office said, "The exhibits came to us later than the initial pleadings, so that's been one of the delays for us having to go through each of those particular exhibits."

Harris also asked the court to reveal the names of witnesses that have been blacked out in the recent filings. "The people have never been provided with an un-redacted copy of those reports," Harris told the judge. "We still don't know who those witnesses are, they're anonymous to us."

Mitchell of the LA Innocence Project answered, "They are fearful of retaliation by the Modesto Police Department if their names become known and have asked that their names remain sealed."

TIMELINE: How the Laci Peterson case unfolded

Judge Elizabeth Hill did not hear arguments on Tuesday - just set dates for future filings and hearings. Noted San Mateo County criminal defense attorney Paula Canny was there, telling us, "They wanted Scott Peterson to get convicted more than they wanted to have the truth be told."

She acted as a commentator during the murder trial, and offered her opinion of the hearing. "How the system should work in a perfect world is the police are completely forthright, are completely transparent, give everything, and that's not what happened in this case."

Neither side in this case would comment before or after Tuesday's hearing. They are due back in court several times, July 15 being the last date on the calendar.

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