Scott Peterson re-sentenced to life in prison without parole

This story originally appeared on CBS San Francisco.

Scott Peterson was re-sentenced by a San Mateo County Superior Court judge on Wednesday to life in prison without parole for the 2002 slaying of his wife and the couple's unborn son, Connor. The now 49-year-old has spent nearly two decades on death row for the crime.

Peterson was convicted in the San Mateo court in 2004 after his trial was moved from Stanislaus County due to the massive pretrial publicity that followed Laci's disappearance on Christmas Eve 2002 and ensuing search.

Investigators say Peterson — who was having an affair at the time — took the body of his pregnant wife from their Modesto home and dumped her remains from his fishing boat into the San Francisco Bay, where they surfaced months later. Appearing on CBS News' "48 Hours" in May, former Modesto police detective Jon Buehler said the evidence in the case all still points to this theory.

"There's nothing that has come out to change my view that Scott got a fair trial and that Scott is the one who killed Laci," Buehler said.

Peterson's death sentence was overturned on appeal by the California Supreme Court in August 2020 after the court ruled that the jury wasn't properly screened for bias against the death penalty, The Associated Press reported. Peterson has insisted that he is innocent.

Stanislaus County District Attorney Birgit Fladager, who was one of three prosecutors in Peterson's trial, opted this time to seek life without parole.

Scott Peterson on December 8, 2021. / Credit: Andy Alfaro / AP
Scott Peterson on December 8, 2021. / Credit: Andy Alfaro / AP

Laci's family speaks in court

Amy Rocha, Laci's sister, made an emotional plea to the court on Wednesday before the sentence was announced. Judge Anne-Christine Massullo had issued a pre-hearing order allotting 16 seats in the courtroom for the friends and family of Laci in the jury box, facing Peterson.

"It's been 19 years and not a day has gone by that I don't think about my sister and the life she could have had and the life we could have all had with Connor," Rocha said. "I always think of how unfair it is that I don't have a sister anymore and I feel so cheated that I don't have that special relationship that others have. You took that away from me."

Laci and Scott Peterson pictured here in an undated photo. / Credit: Evidence photo
Laci and Scott Peterson pictured here in an undated photo. / Credit: Evidence photo

"Because of you, our holidays have never been the same," she continued. "Every Christmas Eve I realize the nightmare we still all live in now. After becoming a mom myself I think of how she was robbed of that most wonderful experience. She would have been the best mom. You have broken all of our hearts."

Laci's brother, Brent Rocha, also spoke."There are no words able to express the pain associated with not being able to experience life together," he said. "The sociopathic actions of Scott Peterson and the disregard for Laci and Connor's lives warrant the most severe punishment. He has shown absolutely no remorse and continues not to accept responsibility for his actions."

Sharon Rocha, Laci's mom, concluded the family's statements.

"I think about Laci every single day," she said. "She would have been 46 years old today, but she'll always be 27 to me. I miss her so much. I miss her friendship. I miss her laughter. I miss her personality, her humor, her companionship. I miss my daughter."

Scott's family also in court

Seats for 16 members of Peterson's friends and family — who entered the courthouse as a group — were reserved elsewhere in the courtroom. Janey Peterson, his sister-in-law, said she believes he is innocent. A room in her family business is lined with maps, photos and notes to aid in her efforts to free him.

"The justice system has failed here, and a lot of aspects have failed," she told "48 Hours." "And it started with the Modesto Police Department. And it started with the fact that they didn't follow up on evidence that showed Laci was alive the morning of December 24."

Massullo will also decide if Peterson gets a new trial on the murder counts after a February 2022 hearing on his claims of juror misconduct at the original trial. Peterson's legal team is arguing that one juror lied during the jury selection process.

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