Scott Peterson has appealed the death penalty sentence he received from the state of California for his involvement in the murder of Laci Peterson and her unborn child Connor.
Attorneys for Peterson filed a 423-page legal document with the California Supreme Court claiming Peterson is innocent and had nothing to do with the murders, which prompted federal and state Unborn Victims laws that provide greater protection and justice for pregnant women and their unborn children who are attacked or killed outside the context of abortion.
Death penalty lawyer Cliff Gardner, who filed the papers for Peterson, according to a Fox News report, “claims that the overwhelming publicity Peterson’s trial received, incorrect evidentiary rulings and other mistakes deprived him of a fair trial.”
Peterson claims that Laci was killed sometime after he left their Modesto home the morning of Dec. 24, 2002 to go fishing in the San Francisco Bay. Gardner notes that Peterson was convicted and sentenced to death, even though investigators never directly proved “how, where or when” the murder occurred.
Prosecutors told the jury that Laci was killed sometime between the night of Dec. 23, 2002 and the morning of Dec. 24, 2002. They believed Laci was suffocated in her home, but Gardner argues that there was little direct evidence collected at the house to support that theory.
Gardner argues that the intense publicity the case generated almost from the moment Laci disappeared deprived Peterson of a fair trial. The trial was ordered moved from Stanislaus County of the Petersons’ home, to San Mateo County. Gardner argued that the trial should have been moved yet again because of the crush of publicity in San Mateo County.
“Before hearing even a single witness, nearly half of all prospective jurors admitted they had already decided Mr. Peterson was guilty of capital murder,’ Gardner argues. And in what may be a first for the American system of justice, outside the courthouse in which the parties would try to select a fair jury, a radio station posted a large billboard which had a telephone number for people to call in and vote” whether Peterson was a “man or monster.” Peterson was pictured in an orange jailhouse jumpsuit.
“The publicity continued throughout trial,” Gardner argued. “A mob estimated at more than 1,000 people gathered at the courthouse to await the guilt phase verdict. After the guilty verdict was announced, the 12 jurors departing to await the beginning of the penalty phase — and decide whether Mr. Peterson would live or die — were met with wild applause and cheering.”
A glut of cases before the California Supreme Court has slowed down the pace of executions in the state and no prisoner has been executed in California since January 2006 because hundreds of cases are currently pending.
Peterson currently resides in San Quentin State Prison while his case is on appeal. The state of California pays for the appeal because it is triggered automatically by state law in death penalty cases.
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During the last couple of years, Peterson’s family has been raising funds to help pay for investigators to look more closely at the case. In a videotape Peterson made in 2008 in connection with the civil lawsuit Laci and Conner’s family file against him, Peterson said he is a victim of a shoddy investigation by Modesto police that made him appear guilty.