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Judge largely denies Scott Peterson DNA testing request in bid to prove innocence

todayMay 30, 2024

Background

In this July 9, 2003, file photo, Scott Peterson listens during a pretrial hearing in Stanislaus Superior Court, in Modesto, Calif. (Al Golub-Pool/Getty Images)

(NEW YORK) — A California judge largely denied a motion by Scott Peterson’s defense team for new or additional DNA testing in his case, as the Los Angeles Innocence Project seeks evidence proving he didn’t murder of his wife and unborn child.

The LA Innocence Project, which took up Scott Peterson’s case last year, had requested 14 items be tested or retested for DNA. On Wednesday, a judge in San Mateo County denied the request for all but one item — the duct tape recovered from the pants of his wife, Laci Peterson, at the time of her autopsy.

An excised portion of that tape was DNA tested in 2003 and shown to have human DNA present but the “DNA was not of an acceptable quality to generate a profile” at that time, the motion stated.

Laci Peterson, who was 27 years old and eight months pregnant, disappeared on Christmas Eve in 2002. Her body was found in the San Francisco Bay in April 2003.

Scott Peterson, 51, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder in the death of his wife and second-degree murder in the death of their unborn son. He was convicted in 2004 and sentenced to death in 2005. He was later sentenced to life in prison without parole.

During the hourslong motion hearing in San Mateo County on Wednesday, the Los Angeles Innocence Project argued there is no forensic evidence that supports Scott Peterson having killed his wife and their unborn child, while prosecutors stood by the original ruling.

“The defendant’s argument is that there’s a fundamental fairness request that requires this testing. The argument is flawed and legally incorrect,” David Harris, the original trial prosecutor from Stanislaus County, told the court. “The defendant says that the prosecution should want to know, an attempt to shame us into agreeing to this test. The people know the truth — we know that Scott Peterson is guilty of, and has been convicted of, the murder of his wife and unborn son.”

Attorneys with the LA Innocence Project have claimed that Scott Peterson’s state and federal constitutional rights were violated, including a “claim of actual innocence that is supported by newly discovered evidence,” according to court documents filed in January.

His attorneys are also seeking dozens of items they say they could not locate after reviewing the trial files from his prior counsel “after a thorough search,” according to court filings. The items include evidence from the investigations into a December 2002 burglary of a home across the street from the Petersons’ house in Modesto in Stanislaus County, Laci Peterson’s missing Croton watch, and a van fire in the Airport District on Dec. 25, 2002, according to the filings. They are also seeking documents from interviews with several witnesses.

The motion for post-trial discovery is scheduled to be discussed in court on July 15.

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