The Los Angeles Innocence Project is now representing Scott Peterson, who was convicted in 2004 of murdering his pregnant wife Laci and unborn son Conner
Nearly 20 years ago, when Scott Peterson was on trial for the murder of his pregnant wife Laci and their unborn son Conner in Redwood City, Calif., the case became a media firestorm.
Now, the case is in the news again after the Los Angeles Innocence Project announced last week that it had taken on the case, claiming in legal filings that “new evidence now supports Mr. Peterson's longstanding claim of innocence.”
Laci, 27, was eight months pregnant when prosecutors said she went missing on Christmas Eve in 2002. Four months later, Laci's body was found in San Francisco Bay, just a mile away from where her unborn baby's body was found.
Scott was identified as the prime suspect after it was revealed he was having an affair with a woman, Amber Frey, who said she did not know he was married. He was arrested in April 2003.
Scott has always maintained his innocence and his lawyers claimed at trial Laci was kidnapped and killed as she walked the couple’s dog after he left to go on a solo fishing trip on Christmas Eve morning.
During the highly-publicized trial in 2004, prosecutors built a case against Scott, whose motive they said was to escape his marriage and impending fatherhood. The prosecution called on several witnesses, including Laci’s relatives and Frey, to try and prove that Scott had shown little emotion during and after Laci’s disappearance.
Prosecutors played phone calls Frey recorded at the behest of authorities between herself and Scott in the weeks after Laci vanished in which Scott read her love poetry to Frey, CBS reported at the time. In the calls, Peterson told Frey he didn't want children and was thinking about having a vasectomy.
Prosecutors alleged Peterson was trying to flee to Mexico when he was arrested, noting he was carrying nearly $15,000 in cash and had dyed his hair blonde and had grown a goatee, NBC News reported.
Related: Amber's Story
The bodies of Laci and Conner washed up four months after she disappeared, and prosecutors called to the stand a hydrologist who said their bodies would have likely been dumped in the area where Scott said he'd gone fishing that morning, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. Prosecutors also claimed Scott made cement anchors to weigh his wife's body down in the bay.
Prosecutors also said blood was found on the couple's bedspread and on the door of Scott's truck, the Chronicle reported. But Peterson, in an interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer, said the blood on his truck was easily explainable by the manual labor he did.
However, Scott’s defense attorney Mark Geragos claimed to jurors that prosecutors primarily relied on circumstantial evidence and had "zero, zip, nada, nothing" of forensic evidence, Court TV News reported in 2009. The defense disputed the forensic evidence presented by the prosecution, which included hair strands supposedly belonging to Laci found on Scott's newly purchased boat and DNA from a set of pliers that matched Laci's DNA, according to NBC News.
The defense said that there were no witnesses, no murder weapon, and no evidence of a struggle that led to Laci’s death. Instead, they said law enforcement had been laser-focused on him because of his affair and did not investigate other potential suspects. Scott's attorneys asserted that someone else abducted Laci during the time she was walking the dog and killed her.
Also during the trial, two jurors were dismissed by Judge Alfred Delucci. While the reasons were not shared publicly by the judge himself, legal experts cited by the New York Times speculated that one of those jurors may have researched the case after jurors were ordered not to look at media coverage. According to officials cited by CBS News, the other juror was replaced after he was seen talking with Laci’s brother.
Today, the L.A. Innocence Project is seeking new evidence in his original trial, arguing Scott’s state and federal constitutional rights were violated. The nonprofit organization is known for its work to exonerate wrongly convicted and incarcerated individuals.
The filings, first obtained by ABC News, highlight updated witness testimony pointing to multiple aspects of the case, including a December 2002 burglary of a Modesto home across the street from the Petersons.
The organization is also hoping to conduct new DNA testing on a blood-stained mattress found on Dec. 25, 2002, in a burned out orange van discovered near the home. The investigation will determine whether the item contained Laci's blood, which could be argued links her back to the burglars, the organization said.
Pat Harris, Scott’s defense attorney, told PEOPLE: “We are very excited to have the incredible attorneys at the L.A. Innocence Project lend their considerable expertise to helping prove Scott Peterson's innocence."
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