Scott Peterson took another step toward getting a new trial in the 2002 death of his pregnant wife after a California judge set a date on Wednesday for a new hearing to determine whether there was juror misconduct in his original trial.
Superior Court Judge Anne-Christine Massullo said she expects to set the date to listen to testimony from the juror in question during a hearing on Sept. 22 with the hope of it being in November. However, delays due to the pandemic could push it to January or February of 2022, Massullo said.
Peterson, 48, is currently serving a life sentence at California's San Quentin State Prison after being convicted in 2004 of the murder of his wife, Laci, and their unborn son, Conner. He was given the death penalty in 2005, but the sentence was reduced to life without parole last year by the California Supreme Court, which cited "significant errors" in jury selection.
"We've said all along that Scott Peterson did not get a fair trial," Peterson's defense attorney, Pat Harris, told Natalie Morales on TODAY Thursday.
Peterson participated in Wednesday's hearing by phone from prison, saying little. No cameras or recordings were allowed.
The dispute over alleged juror misconduct is centered around juror Richelle Nice, whom Peterson's defense team claims purposefully tried to get on the jury to convict Peterson because she had faced domestic abuse in her own life. Nice is identified as Juror No. 7 in court documents, but co-authored a book about the case revealing herself publicly, according to The Associated Press.
If Massullo finds that juror misconduct took place, Peterson could be granted a new trial.
His sister-in-law, Janey Peterson, has been in regular contact with him and is leading the fight for a new trial.
"I think that he's hopeful," she told Morales on TODAY Thursday.
Peterson, 53, who is married to Scott's older brother Joe, described Scott and Laci's relationship as being "very attentive to each other" and said she never saw him fighting with her or any signs of abuse.
However, she also claimed Laci had knowledge of Scott's infidelity. A crucial part of Peterson's case was his affair with massage therapist Amber Frey, who testified that she was unaware that Peterson was married. She also said Peterson told her that his wife had died.
"I know now that Scott had been unfaithful before and that she was aware of it," Janey Peterson said about Laci.
Investigators said at Peterson's 2004 trial that he dumped the body of his pregnant wife in the San Francisco Bay from a fishing boat. She was found months later.
The day Peterson was arrested, he had changed his appearance, with his hair dyed blonde and a goatee. His sister-in-law said he did it because he was being stalked by the media.
He also led police on a high-speed chase before being pulled over and arrested near a golf course in La Jolla, California.
"Scott perceived he was being followed by media and he was trying to evade them," Janey Peterson said. "And the moment they put a siren on the roof of their car, he immediately pulled over."
Peterson's defense team is arguing a theory that Laci was abducted by burglars who were robbing the house across the street on the day she disappeared.
Janey Peterson said on TODAY Wednesday that a mailman's eyewitness statement that was never heard in court changes the timeline put forward by investigators on the day of Laci's disappearance and proves Scott's innocence. She continues to push for what she sees as justice for her brother-in-law.
"Justice would look like finding who took Laci and Conner, and Scott being released," she said.