Laci Peterson’s mother addresses Scott Peterson in Redwood City courtroom as he’s re-sentenced to life without parole.. Sixteen years after he was condemned to death row in the very same courthouse, Scott Peterson was back in Redwood City on Wednesday and re-sentenced to life without parole in the killing of his wife, Laci, and their unborn baby in a case that continues to grip the nation.
The California’s Supreme Court last year overturned the 2005 sentence saying jurors who disagreed with the death penalty but were willing to impose it were improperly dismissed from the jury pool.
In an emotional hearing that brought the high-profile convicted killer face-to-face again with his anguished former in-laws, Peterson sat expressionless as Laci’s mother addressed the one-time Modesto fertilizer salesman.
“I still feel the grief every day, after 19 years,” Sharon Rocha told her one-time son-in-law — wearing a red jumpsuit with an orange undershirt, his face covered by a mask — inside the courtroom where masked family members of both gathered.
Speaking in a deep, angry tone, Rocha told Peterson his son, who was to be named Conner, would be 18 now, meaning he could have been “free” from paying child support had he divorced Laci instead.
“You’re a coward,” she said. “I’ve seen no sorrow and no remorse.”
Her comments came nearly two decades after prosecutors said Peterson, who was having an affair, dumped the bodies of his eight-months pregnant wife, then 27, and their unborn boy off a fishing boat in San Francisco Bay on Christmas Eve 2002. Their remains washed ashore in April 2003. A judge moved the trial out of Modesto to San Mateo County because of hostility toward Peterson in his wife’s hometown, and a jury convicted him of first- and second-degree murder in November 2004.
For now, the conviction still stands, and Judge Anne-Christine Massullo re-sentenced Peterson Wednesday to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Early next year, there will be another hearing to decide whether Peterson should get a new trial because of alleged juror misconduct. Peterson’s team has argued that one juror committed misconduct by falsely answering questions during jury selection and not disclosing that she was beaten while pregnant by a boyfriend in 2001. Even if Peterson is granted a new trial, prosecutors have said they will not seek the death penalty.
On Wednesday, several members of Laci Peterson’s family addressed Scott Peterson in the tightly controlled court room.
Amy Rocha, her half-sister, sobbed as she spoke.
“There have been so, so many special occasions that Laci and Conner should’ve been here for,” she said. “I honestly don’t know how you go on living.”
“There are no words to express the pain,” Laci’s brother, Brent Rocha, said, apologizing for crying. “We have been devastated and traumatized.”
Peterson stared toward each speaker, showing little reaction.
“I miss my daughter,” Sharon Rocha, the last family member to speak, said. “I have dreams about her.”
She recounted the final time she saw Laci, at a December dinner almost exactly 19 years ago, when she rested her hand on her daughter’s stomach hoping to feel her future grandson move.
Laci, Rocha remembered, said Scott didn’t want to do that but seemed optimistic he’d “come around someday.”
“That broke my heart,” Rocha said.
Peterson, who has been kept at San Quentin State Prison, was transferred to the San Mateo County jail last week ahead of Wednesday’s hearing and will remain there until at least February, when the hearing to determine whether he should get a new trial is set to begin.
Pat Harris, Peterson’s defense attorney, continued Wednesday to maintain his client’s innocence. The judge declined to hear directly from Peterson at the case, and no members of his family spoke in court.
Speaking outside the courthouse to a crowd of journalists and a few onlookers shortly after the roughly one-hour hearing concluded around 11:15 a.m., Harris said that his client was not allowed to address the court, but if permitted he would have sought to dispute the “concept that he did not want to have a child.”
“I think he just also wanted to reach out to tell the Rocha family that he understands their feelings. He understands why they believe that he is guilty,” said Harris. “But he wanted to make it clear that there’s no way he could possibly harm Laci and Connor.”
Peterson’s sister-in-law, Janey Peterson, accused the Modesto police of ignoring evidence and looking to blame Peterson due to his affair with Amber Frey, a Fresno massage therapist.
“They focused strictly on my brother-in-law because he was having an affair,” she said.
Laci’s family did not speak publicly after the re-sentencing wrapped up and left through a back door.