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Judge cancels Scott Peterson hearing on potential new trial

The Modesto Bee logoThe Modesto Bee 11/29/2022 Erin Tracy, The Modesto Bee

Nov. 28—Scott Peterson was scheduled to go to San Mateo Superior Court on Friday, to learn during a hearing whether his murder convictions would be overturned. But the hearing, to be broadcast live on television, was vacated Monday in an order by Judge Anne-Christine Massullo.

The order said she will instead issue a written ruling only. The order also vacated her previous order to transfer Peterson from prison to the San Mateo County jail so he could be present for the hearing. Instead, he will remain in prison and await word from his attorneys.

The ruling gave no explanation for her decision to vacate the hearing, which was scheduled earlier this month. Nor did it say when the written ruling would be issued, other than that it will be before the Dec. 16 deadline.

Peterson's sister-in-law, Janey Peterson, said the parties were also not given a reason for the change of course but said a written ruling only is "probably more preferable."

"The media gauntlet is already a bit daunting and then add to that the cameras recording our every move as the judge delivers the ruling," she said. "No matter which way she rules, a family leaves the courtroom upset."

Peterson was convicted in 2004 of murdering his wife Laci and their unborn Conner.

Laci's family has not spoken publicly about the case since the California Supreme Court remanded it to the San Mateo Superior Court in 2020 so a judge could make a ruling on Peterson's juror misconduct claim.

Judge Massullo's ruling will be based on evidence presented during a hearing earlier this year and written briefs filed by Peterson's attorneys and the Stanislaus County District Attorney's Office.

Peterson's attorneys allege that juror Richelle Nice was biased against him and lied on a jury questionnaire in order to serve on a jury. Nice answered on the questionnaire that she had never been the victim of a crime or party in a lawsuit.

But a few years prior, she obtained a restraining order, a type of lawsuit, against her boyfriend's ex-girlfriend, who had threatened her while she was pregnant. Another time, that boyfriend was arrested for domestic violence after a fight.

During the evidentiary hearing Nice testified that her boyfriend never hit her and that she was the aggressor. "When I filled out that questionnaire — honestly and truly — nothing of this crossed my mind." She said she didn't know the restraining order she got against her boyfriend's ex-girlfriend was a type of lawsuit and didn't consider a lawsuit she later filed against the ex-girlfriend for lost wages because she ultimately dropped it.

Prosecutors say Nice made mistakes on the questionnaire but didn't intentionally lie.

This story was originally published November 28, 2022 3:16 PM.

(c)2022 The Modesto Bee (Modesto, Calif.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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