Scott Peterson gets new life sentence in wife's murder after years on death row

Scott Peterson, the man convicted in the 2002 killing of his wife and unborn child, was resentenced to life in prison without parole Wednesday after spending more than a decade on death row.

Peterson's resentencing came after California's Supreme Court last year overturned his death sentence for the improper screening of jurors for bias and later said a lower court should determine whether he gets a new trial. The court, however, did not overturn his conviction and said considerable circumstantial evidence incriminated Peterson.

Pat Harris, one of Peterson's defense attorneys, said his client had wanted to speak at the hearing Wednesday, but Superior Court Judge Anne-Christine Massullo did not allow for an allocution, given that the sentence was preordained, she said.

Peterson was convicted of first-degree murder in his wife Laci Peterson's death and second-degree murder in the death of their unborn son, who was to be named Connor.

The high-profile case gripped the nation as prosecutors said Peterson dumped the bodies off a boat on Christmas Eve 2002, and the remains later washed ashore in April 2003 from the San Francisco Bay.

At the sentencing hearing, Laci Peterson's mother and siblings spoke about the grief they had felt without her over the past 19 years and never getting to see Connor born and grow up.

"Your evil, self-centered, unforgiveable, selfish act ended two beautiful souls.

And for what reason? There was no reason other than you just didn't want them anymore," Laci Peterson's mother, Sharon Rocha, said during the hearing.

Massullo plans to hold a hearing next year to consider whether juror misconduct prejudiced Peterson and if there should be a new trial.

Harris argued Wednesday that certain mitigating factors supported Peterson's innocence and that claims Peterson has shown no remorse are unfair given that he maintains his innocence.

This Nov. 29, 2021 photo from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, shows inmate Scott Peterson, who was convicted for the 2002 murders of his pregnant wife and unborn son. Peterson is expected to be resentenced to life in prison on Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021, after the state Supreme Court ruled that his jury was improperly screened for bias against the death penalty.

Death penalty overturned: California high court overturns death penalty for Scott Peterson in slaying of pregnant wife

The search for Laci Peterson drew thousands of public tips as investigators hunted for clues about what led to her disappearance. Scott Peterson was ultimately arrested after a massage therapist told investigators they began dating a month before Laci Peterson's death and that Scott Peterson told her his wife was dead.

At the sentencing hearing, prosecutors said Peterson lied to multiple people in the weeks leading up to and after Laci Peterson's death. His defense attorney said the comments were "blown out of context."

Last year, state Supreme Court justices said the trial judge "made a series of clear and significant errors in jury selection that, under long-standing United States Supreme Court precedent, undermined Peterson’s right to an impartial jury at the penalty phase."

A closer look: Scott Peterson's murder convictions of wife and unborn son to be reexamined

Some jurors were improperly dismissed after saying they personally disagreed with the death penalty but could impose it in following the law, the justices ruled.

However, in considering whether Peterson should get a new trial, the judge will look at whether a juror's false answers during the selection process prejudiced Peterson. His defense says she sought to join the jury.

The juror did not disclose that she had been beaten by a boyfriend while pregnant and sought a restraining order against a boyfriend's ex-girlfriend, in which she said she feared for her unborn child.

Harris said that if a new trial were to occur, his defense would present evidence suggesting Laci Peterson's death may have been tied to a nearby burglary that took place on the same day. However, investigators previously ruled out the burglars as suspects.

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Scott Peterson gets new life sentence in Laci Peterson murder case