Scott Peterson, the man convicted of killing his wife and unborn child nearly 20 years ago, appeared virtually Wednesday after the judge noticed a clerical error and temporarily suspended her decision over whether Peterson would be granted a new trial.
Peterson, now 50, joined the Wednesday morning status conference from California’s Mule Creek State Prison, where he is serving his life sentence. Judge Anne-Christine Massullo scheduled the court date "for the limited purpose of addressing a recently noticed issue regarding admitted exhibits," she wrote in a Dec. 9 filing.
"In preparing the decision in this matter, which is not final, and reviewing the record again, it came to my attention that a rule of court has been violated," Massullo said in court Wednesday. During the hearing, Massullo specified that court filings, which would eventually be unsealed, included an unredacted Social Security number and a driver's license number.
Massullo ordered that attorneys meet by Thursday morning to determine how to correct the exhibit, then explain how they would do so and ensure there were no further errors within the filings. The jurist further said she would state by Friday whether the issue was fixed.
Peterson and his attorneys were expecting to hear by Dec. 16 whether he would be granted a new trial, but the deadline was suspended as of Dec. 8 pending Wednesday’s court appearance. It was unclear immediately following Wednesday's hearing when Massullo was expected to release her decision regarding a new trial.
Peterson was transferred from California's San Quentin State Prison to Mule Creek State Prison in October as he awaits his fate. Peterson's family and his attorney, Pat Harris, previously told Fox News Digital they plan to appeal the decision if Massullo rules against a new trial.
The California Supreme Court overturned Peterson’s death sentence in 2020, after news that prospective jury candidates were improperly dismissed came to light, but maintained his conviction.
Peterson was convicted in 2004 in the murders of his 27-year-old wife, Laci, and their unborn son, Conner. Prosecutors argued at the time that he killed Laci and disposed of her body on Christmas Eve 2002 in San Francisco Bay.
On Aug. 11 of this year, Peterson, his attorneys and Stanislaus County prosecutors convened for a hearing at the San Mateo County Superior Court regarding the potential for a retrial.
Peterson's attorneys have argued that juror Richelle Nice was biased and lied in her questionnaire to get on the jury.
They pointed to evidence that Nice had neglected to share during jury selection that she had applied for a restraining order in 2000 while she was pregnant, and told authorities at the time that she "fears for her unborn child," The Associated Press reported at the time.
During his arguments to the court at the time, Peterson attorney Cliff Gardner said Nice contradicted herself in multiple statements, and later changed her answers to certain questions regarding her personal experiences and feelings. He argued she was inconsistent and uncooperative.
Gardner said Nice refused in 2015 to speak to the defense or the prosecution, and only testified in 2022 because she was granted immunity.
Gardner also said Nice responded "no" to a question asking whether she could base her decision entirely on the evidence produced in court and not from outside or pre-existing opinions or attitudes. But Peterson's attorney at the time, who is no longer involved with the case, did not follow up on the answer, the judge said.
But Massullo questioned why Peterson’s attorneys at the time did not ask follow-up questions to clarify some of Nice’s responses. She noted that there were several inconsistencies in the prospective juror questionnaire in the original trial.
David Harris with the Stanislaus County District Attorney's Office told the court that Nice, when asked why she considered herself a "fair person," responded, "I know what it's like to be judged."
The prosecution said Nice was a single mom who had never been on a jury before this trial and thought it would be a part of her civic duty.
The 23-page questionnaire had 163 questions, and "she did the best that she could," he said.
"She's inconsistent on her answers," he told the court. "But being wrong does not necessarily make it false or make her a liar. It just might be that she's really bad at filling out forms."
Harris later added: "Nice showed, sometimes, that she could be a little bit confused about things."
He further pointed to the evidence police had garnered against Peterson during the course of his investigation into Laci and Conner's deaths.
He explained: "From the simple fact that Laci and Conner, whose bodies washed ashore 90 miles from their home, but within sight of where Peterson admitted he went fishing on the day that they disappeared; to the research Peterson did on bay currents in the weeks preceding her disappearance; and the fishing boat he bought, but mentioned [to] no one; to Peterson's inability to explain what he was fishing for in the middle of the day; to his repeated subsequent, serendipitous trips to the marina in the weeks after her disappearance; to the many steps he took in the weeks after she went missing — selling her car, exploring sale of the house, turning the nursery into a storage room — that indicated that he already knew Laci and Conner were never coming back."
Nice previously told a court she did not have any bias against Peterson until after hearing the evidence presented at trial.