Scott Peterson was back in court as he demanded access to DNA evidence he says will prove his innocence

California judge has allowed a singular piece of duct tape found on the clothing of Laci Peterson to be retested but denied all other items

Amelia Neath
Friday 31 May 2024 00:06 BST
Judge denies Scott Peterson's DNA test requests

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A California judge has allowed new DNA retesting to take place on one item of evidence in the case of Scott Peterson, who was convicted in 2004 of murdering his pregnant wife and unborn child.

Peterson, 51, was convicted twenty years ago for the slaying of Laci Peterson, who was eight months pregnant with a son, just before Christmas 2002.

Her body, and that of their unborn son, washed up on the shore of the San Francisco Bay a few months later, and Peterson is still serving life in prison without parole after his previous death sentence was overturned in 2020.

However, in March, Peterson’s lawyers from the Los Angeles Innocence Project, a group which works to exonerate those who say they have been wrongly convicted, returned to court asking a judge in San Mateo County to look at the evidence and grant a new trial.

The judge ruled on Wednesday that only one item from the list of 14 collected pieces of evidence, a 15.5-inch-long piece of duct tape found on Laci Peterson’s pants, should be retested.

Peterson’s defense team has argued that the tape contains human DNA that could point to someone other than him as being the one responsible for his wife’s death.

Scott Peterson, 21, was conviced in 2004 after being accused of murdering his wife and unborn son
Scott Peterson, 21, was conviced in 2004 after being accused of murdering his wife and unborn son (Getty Images)

The tape, first tested in 2003, is shown to have human DNA present; however, the motion states, according to ABC News, that “the DNA was not of an acceptable quality to generate a profile.”

Peterson’s attorneys have consistently said that the limited testing of the pieces of evidence has offered inconclusive results. Prosecutors have pushed back against testing requests by telling the court that testing was already carried out in 2019.

His attorneys also requested an examination of evidence from a burglary that happened across the street from Peterson’s home. Defense lawyers have theorised that Laci may have been kidnapped and murdered after she potentially witnessed the burglary.

Yet, the judge denied requests for those items, CNN reported.

Peterson’s laywers theorise his wife was actually murdered as part of a burglary cover-up
Peterson’s laywers theorise his wife was actually murdered as part of a burglary cover-up (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation)

The defence team have also tried to implement new testing on a bloody mattress found in a burned-out van the day after the pregnant woman disappeared, according to NBC News.

But the judge ruled that testing carried out in 2019 suggested there was no blood on the mattress cloth and that the van was not related to Peterson’s case.

The judge also ruled that the defence had failed to prove that items found surrounding where Laci Peterson’s body was found when it washed ashore on the bay were directly associated with her.

Additionally, the judge determined that a glove and a hammer found at the home of one of the Petersons’ neighbours were never put in police custody, meaning they do not qualify to be re-tested for evidence, the outlet said.

The San Mateo County Superior Court Judge said she was only ruling over the retesting of evidence, not if Peterson can stand for a new trial, which is what his legal team are working towards.

LAIP, who took Peterson’s case in January, argues that he was only convicted in 2004 on a large amount of circumstantial evidence and a small amount of physical evidence.

A choir sings during the memorial service for Laci Peterson and her unborn son Conner May 4, 2003 in Modesto, California.
A choir sings during the memorial service for Laci Peterson and her unborn son Conner May 4, 2003 in Modesto, California. (Getty Images)

He has repeatedly argued his innocence over the years, with a previous attempt at a retrial in 2021 tossed out.

Laci was 27 when she was reported missing on 24 December 2002. She was eight months pregnant with their son, who was going to be called Conner.

Mr Peterson told police that he was fishing alone in the San Francisco Bay, and when he got home to Modesto, around 90 miles away, his wife of five years was gone.

After nearly four months of searching, Laci and Conner’s bodies washed up on the shore of the Bay in April 2003.

According to prosecutors, Peterson dumped his wife’s body in the Berkeley Marina on Christmas Eve of that year and attempted to make it seem as if she had gone missing, court records state.

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