Scott Peterson juror offered immunity to testify

West

LOS ANGELES (NewsNation Now) — Nearly 20 years after Scott Peterson was convicted of killing his pregnant wife and their unborn son, a juror who sat on that trial will be granted immunity before testifying at a hearing that could determine whether a new trial is granted.

“The fact that they’re offering this immunity shows they really mean business in this matter,” Los Angeles criminal defense attorney Lou Shapiro said Tuesday on “NewsNation Prime.”

The offer to Richelle Nice will come before she testifies at a Feb. 25 evidentiary hearing, Stanislaus County District Attorney Birgit Fladager announced Monday.

Nice was Juror 7 in the trial that ended in 2004 with Peterson’s conviction for killing his pregnant wife, Laci Peterson, and their unborn son.

Prosecutors say Peterson took his wife’s body from their Modesto home on Christmas Eve 2002 and dumped her from his fishing boat into San Francisco Bay, where her body and that of her unborn son washed ashore separately in April 2003.

Peterson’s lawyers want to overturn his murder conviction on grounds of bias and misconduct. They contend that Nice lied on a jury questionnaire when she denied having been the victim of a crime or involved in a lawsuit.

Attorneys say Nice did not reveal during jury selection that she had been beaten by a boyfriend while pregnant in 2001. She also didn’t disclose that during another pregnancy, she had obtained a restraining order — considered a type of lawsuit — against a boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend, whom she feared would hurt her unborn child.

“Peterson’s lawyers are going to be able to argue that this is not just ‘so what?,'” Shapiro said. “That the fact that this juror was a real victim of domestic violence and was pregnant, almost was walking in the shoes of this victim in this Peterson case. That was just too much to take a gamble on and she should not have been a sitting juror in this trial.”

FILE – In this Dec. 13, 2004, file photo, Juror number 7, Richelle Nice, adjusts her hair as members of the jury speak with the media in the Old San Mateo County Courthouse in Redwood City, Calif. Authorities said Monday, Feb. 7, 2022, that former Nice, a juror in Scott Peterson’s two-decade-old murder trial will be granted immunity before testifying at a hearing that could determine whether a new trial is granted. (AP Photo/Lou Dematteis, File)

Peterson’s attorneys have argued that Nice actively sought to join the jury because she wanted Peterson to be punished for the deaths.

She has denied it.

“I did not lie to get on this trial to fry Scott,” she told the Modesto Bee in 2017.

Nice had said that without immunity — which could protect her from a perjury charge — she would invoke the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination. However, if she refuses to answer questions on the witness stand after being given immunity, Nice could be held in contempt of court.

Nice later wrote dozens of prison letters to Peterson while he was on death row. She also co-authored a book on the case with other jurors.

The evidentiary hearing will run about a week, following which the judge will then decide within 90 days whether to grant Peterson a new trial.

Peterson, 49, was sentenced to death in 2005 but he was resentenced to life without parole in December. The California Supreme Court tossed out his original sentence in 2020 on grounds that the jury was improperly screened for bias against the death penalty.

However, the justices also said in their decision that there was considerable circumstantial evidence incriminating Peterson in the first-degree murder of Laci and the second-degree murder of their unborn son.

“It is a very emotionally charged case,” Shapiro said. “So that in it of itself raises the stakes, but gives us all the opportunity … to learn about juror misconduct, and how the process handles that when it comes up.”

Shapiro says there us a lot of pressure on the judge right now.

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