Death Penalty Overturned by CA Supreme Court

hourglass and gavel

New Trial on Penalty Phase of a 2002 Murder Case

Scott Peterson murdered his 8-month pregnant wife on Christmas Eve in 2002 and dumped her body into the San Francisco Bay. Months later, her body surfaced, resulting in his 2004 murder convictions. He faced a first-degree murder conviction for his wife and a second-degree murder charge for his unborn child.

Peterson was sentenced to the death penalty in 2005 but the California Supreme Court recently overturned it. Although Peterson’s conviction remains in place, his penalty has yet to be decided.


Peterson’s lawyer argued that his client’s trial was flawed and impartial for reasons such as:

  • Errors in jury selection: Peterson’s right to an impartial jury was undermined in ways including the jury selection process. Potential jurors were dismissed when they stated their disagreement with the death penalty but would be willing to impose it under California law. The CA Supreme Court justices unanimously agreed that “a juror may not be dismissed merely because he or she has expressed opposition to the death penalty as a general matter.”
  • Publicity: The national media attention that followed Peterson after his murder charges interfered with his right to a fair trial. Peterson’s attorney argued that the court failed to move the trial elsewhere due to the pretrial publicity against his client. Peterson’s trial was arguably biased, according to his lawyer.

As a result of these two pressing matters, the CA Supreme Court granted Peterson a new trial on the penalty phase. As a reminder, his murder convictions are still upheld, and the new trial will only examine how he should be punished.

This notorious murder case is a powerful example of what can happen in court. What many people believe is a final verdict is not always the case, and Peterson’s story demonstrates just that. His 15-year-old case still has a chance for a favorable outcome that doesn’t end in death.

At the Law Offices of Evan E. Zelig, P.C., our Santa Rosa criminal defense lawyer will advocate tirelessly for the best outcome on your behalf, even if it takes lots of time and resources. We will do whatever it takes to ensure you have a fair trial and impartial jury from the very beginning. You can count on us.

To learn how we can defend your criminal accusations, contact (707) 418-5352 to arrange a free case review.