Scott Peterson filed his automatic appeal of his 2005 death sentence with the California Supreme Court, maintaining he had nothing to do with the murder of his wife Laci Peterson and his unborn son.
The filing represents the first step in his attempt to leave death row and clear his name, his father said, according to the Modesto Bee. However, the family of Laci Peterson said that his strategy could place him on a quicker path to his untimely end.
It is probably fair to say that there are not many cases in the history of California where the state obtained a guilty verdict and death sentence for murder absent of how, where, or when the murder occurred, Berkeley attorney Cliff Gardner argued, the Bee reported.
Garder filed the 423-page document eight years after a San Mateo County jury found Peterson guilty of suffocating Laci and dumping her body in the San Francisco Bay on Christmas Eve in 2002, the Associated Press reported.
Since the trial, Peterson has maintained his innocence. However, Gardner claimed that due to the overwhelming publicity of the trial, incorrect evidentiary procedure and other perceived mistakes, the trial was unfair. In 2004, Peterson was convicted of murder and given the death penalty.
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Before hearing even a single witness, nearly half of all prospective jurors admitted they had already decided Mr. Peterson was guilty of capital murder, Gardner claimed, CBS reported.
The trial was originally moved from Stanislaus County to San Mateo County. However, Gardner said the trial should have been moved again once a local radio station posted a large billboard giving residents the chance to vote if they believed Peterson was a man or monster, the AP reported.
The publicity continued throughout trial, Gardner argued. A mob estimated at more than 1,000 people gathered at the courthouse to await the guilt phase verdict. After the guilty verdict was announced, the 12 jurors departing to await the beginning of the penalty phase - and decide whether Mr. Peterson would live or die - were met with wild applause and cheering.
Although it has been sometime since the trial, Peterson's appeal is considered relatively quick compared to other death penalty cases. However, his family hired Gardner specifically because of his expertise with Supreme Court appeals.
Supporters of Laci's family believe that he is in over his head.
I think he's crazy. Let him go ahead. Once the appeal's met, he's pretty much on the starting line for death, that's the way I look at it, Ron Grantski, a longtime friend of Laci Peterson's mother, said, according to The Modesto Bee.
Jurors who convicted Peterson also do not have any regrets about their decision.
We were right to put Scott where he is now. I've never felt any different about that, never, said Mike Belmessieri, who served on the jury. Here's the bottom line: he did it, Belmessieri continued. God knows each one of us (jurors) has thought about it thousands of times since the trial. He did it, he's guilty, he's where he should be right now and he belongs in the death chamber. It's that simple.
Still, Gardner said the trial was extremely unfair to his client because prosecutors introduced highly prejudicial dog scent evidence and an expert in movement regarding bodies in water. The defense team on the other hand was not allowed to show a video contradicting the experts claim.
Mr. Peterson recognizes, of course, that he was not entitled to a perfect trial, Gardner writes. But he was still entitled to a fair one.