Scott Peterson’s appearance in a California court on Wednesday to be resentenced for killing his wife and unborn son could potentially involve him speaking in court about their deaths for the first time.
Peterson, 49, is expected to appear in person at court, where the family of his slain wife, Laci Peterson, will face him for the first time in nearly 17 years.
Here’s what to know about Wednesday, December 8, 2021, court appearance in San Mateo.
Why is Scott Peterson being resentenced?
Peterson initially received the death penalty 16 years ago in 2005, following his 2004 conviction for the murder of his wife on Christmas Eve in 2002.
However, his death penalty sentence was overturned last year when a court reduced it to life without parole.
He was moved off death row last week after the California Supreme Court reduced his sentence because his trial judge had excluded potential jurors opposed to the death penalty.
Will he still be doing life in prison?
Yes, the court procedure on Wednesday does not alter his conviction for the murder of his wife and unborn child.
“There’s no change in the evidence that brought the conviction,” NBC News legal analyst Lisa Green said on TODAY Wednesday. “The change here was that the death penalty was deemed to be unconstitutional because jurors were struck from the panel. A court looked at that and was stunned that that happened, so Peterson is no longer on death row, but his guilt or innocence, that remains the same today.”
Will Scott Peterson speak in court?
Peterson will only be able to speak if the judge grants him the opportunity.
He has never spoken in court about the murders, but hopes to get a chance on Wednesday, according to his attorney.
“I think it’s important at this point that people see he is a human being with feelings and emotions,” attorney Pat Harris told NBC News correspondent Erin McLaughlin on TODAY Wednesday. “I think it’s important that the public hear from him to say that he did not kill his wife.”
“For Peterson, it’s an opportunity to reset the narrative,” Green said. “That may not matter today at the resentencing. It would matter a lot if he had the opportunity for a new trial.”
Will the family of his late wife, Laci Peterson, speak in court?
Laci Peterson’s mother, Sharon Rocha, is expected to give a new victim impact statement.
This will be the first time Laci Peterson’s family and friends face Scott Peterson in person in nearly 17 years. Rocha spoke to Katie Couric on “Dateline” back in 2006 after Peterson had received the death penalty.
“I was just beside myself thinking about what he had done to her,” Rocha said. “And did she know that it was happening. And how could he have done anything to Laci. There was no reason. There was no reason for him to kill Laci. Other than pure selfishness.”
Green anticipates an emotional speech from Rocha.
“They have historically been very vocal — that’s understandable given what happened to their daughter — so it should be extraordinarily high drama in a small courtroom with very few attendants, and their opportunity to pour their hearts out with Scott Peterson in the room,” Green said.
Will Peterson get a new trial?
The chances are slim, but there is a possibility, according to Green.
Peterson’s legal team has argued for a new trial by claiming that his previous trial was flawed due to juror misconduct. They claim one of the jurors lied in order to get selected on the case and convict him.
“It’s possible, but it’s not likely because the bar is set so high,” Green said about a new trial.
“For the court to have to overturn this verdict, they’re going to have to find what’s called prejudicial misconduct. Not just the possibility of bias, but actual evidence showing that this juror essentially intended to reach a certain unfair result.”
Peterson’s sister-in-law, Janey Peterson, who is married to his older brother Joe, maintained on TODAY in August that he is innocent and says she is fighting for him to get a new trial.
A key part of Peterson’s case hinged on his affair with massage therapist Amber Frey, who testified she was unaware that Peterson was married. She also said Peterson told her that his wife had died.
Janey Peterson was asked if Peterson’s affair could have been a motive for murdering his wife.
“I don’t think you can take that leap,” she said.