Scott Peterson’s death sentence conviction was reversed by the California supreme court on Monday, August 24, after his trial for the murder of wife Laci Peterson and their unborn child was determined to have “a series of clear and significant errors” during juror selection.

In an opinion of the court by Justice Kruger, the judge argued jurors failed to be impartial when sentencing Peterson to the death penalty during his 2004 trial. While justices agree a juror could be dismissed based on their view on capital punishment, a juror cannot be dismissed “merely because he or she has expressed opposition to the death penalty as a general matter.”

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Modesto Police Department

Additionally, Kruger stated the trial court judge was wrong to dismiss prospective jurors based on their opposition to the death penalty, since there was no indication their view would prevent them from coming to a fair conclusion.

“We are grateful for the California supreme court’s unanimous recognition that if the state wishes to put someone on death, it must proceed to trial only with a fairly selected jury,” Peterson’s lawyer, Cliff Gardner, wrote in a statement to In Touch. “Prosecutors may not rely on jury specifically organized by the state to return a verdict of death. And while we are disappointed that such a biased jury selection results in a reversal of only the death sentence, we look forward to the court’s review of the new forensic and eyewitness evidence of innocence presented in Mr. Peterson’s separate and still pending state habeas petition.”

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AL GOLUB/AP/Shutterstock

As a result of the new ruling, “people may retry the penalty phase if they so choose,” according to the press release obtained by In Touch.

Peterson was convicted of two counts of murder for the death of his wife in November 2004, including first-degree murder with special circumstances, and second-degree murder for the couple’s unborn child. In December 2002, Laci went missing and her body was found four months later in 2003. While it was impossible to determine her exact cause of death, an autopsy revealed there was a “significant cut” made to the fetus’ body. Despite the lack of physical evidence, Peterson was still convicted for both murders.

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