The California Supreme Court overturned the death sentence for Scott Peterson, but made it clear that prosecutors may try again for the same sentence.
Peterson was convicted in 2004 for killing his wife, Laci Peterson, who was eight months pregnant with their unborn son.
According to investigators, Peterson dumped the bodies into San Francisco Bay, surfacing months later.
“Peterson contends his trial was flawed for multiple reasons, beginning with the unusual amount of pretrial publicity that surrounded the case,” said the court.
“We reject Peterson’s claim that he received an unfair trial as to guilt and thus affirm his convictions for murder.”
However, the justices noted that the trial judge “made a series of clear and significant errors in jury selection that, under long-standing United States Supreme Court precedent, undermined Peterson’s right to an impartial jury at the penalty phase.”
It was argued that potential jurors were dismissed from the jury pool when they expressed their opposition to the death penalty, although they attest that they would be willing to follow the law and impose it.
“While a court may dismiss a prospective juror as unqualified to sit on a capital case if the juror’s views on capital punishment would substantially impair his or her ability to follow the law, a juror may not be dismissed merely because he or she has expressed opposition to the death penalty as a general matter,” the justices said.
Stanislaus County District Attorney Birgit Fladager had not yet made a statement whether she would again seek the death penalty.
Peterson was arrested after a massage therapist living in Fresno told the police that she begun dating him month before his wife’s death, but he told her that his wife was dead.
He was convicted of first-degree murder in the death of his wife and the second-degree murder of their unborn son.