SACRAMENTO (Calif.) -- Scott Peterson, convicted killer, has a chance to a new trial in his murders of his wife and unborn child 20 years ago. It all depends on whether or not a California juror who sent him to prison in 2004 amid global publicity was biased because she was a victim of domestic violence.
Richelle Nice is only identified as Juror 7 in court documents. However, Richelle Nice used her name to co-author a book about the case along with six other jurors. Her red hair was dyed during the trial and made her easily identifiable. She earned the nickname "Strawberry Shortcake."
Under a grant to her immunity, she is expected Friday to testify. She will appear at the beginning of a weeklong hearing that will focus on whether she lied to Peterson about her domestic violence history to be on a jury to vote for him guilty.
Pat Harris, one Peterson's lawyers said that "this hearing is crucial." "This is her chance to prove that she did not commit misconduct and have the entire thing thrown out."
Nice did not disclose to the jury that she had sought a restraining or injunction while she was pregnant in 2000. She stated that she "really fears" for her unborn baby because of threats made by her boyfriend's ex. She also did not disclose that her boyfriend had beaten her while she was pregnant in 2001 with another child.
Laci Peterson (27), was eight months pregnant when she was shot to death. The Petersons had planned to name Conner. According to investigators, Scott Peterson threw his wife's body into San Francisco Bay on Christmas Eve 2002.
Peterson was finally arrested after Amber Frey (a Fresno-based massage therapist) told police that they had been dating for a month prior to Laci Peterson's passing. She claimed that he had previously told her his wife was deceased. Peterson has always maintained his innocence.
The state Supreme Court overturned Peterson's death sentence and ordered Anne-Christine Massullo, Superior Court Judge Anne Christine Massullo, to decide if Nice tainted Peterson’s trial. However, the court stated that "there was substantial other circumstantial evidence incriminating Peterson."
Harris stated that if Peterson is convicted, they will be able to present new evidence that burglars were near Laci Peterson's disappearance, that witnesses saw her alive on that day, and that the examination of her fetal remains showed that her fetus had been "alive for at most another five to six more days."
Prosecutors said Peterson's lawyers have not presented any evidence to support their contentions that Peterson deserves a fresh trial. They claimed Nice had a "darker motive to be on the jurors" and was "in essence a stealth juryor."
Depending on Nice’s testimony Friday, Peterson’s attorneys will call witnesses, including co-authors of their book, “We, the Jury.” They also want Johnny Dodd, People magazine reporter, to testify about the 17 letters Nice sent to Peterson following his conviction, and the eight letters Peterson wrote.
Two post-trial filmmakers on "The Murder Of Laci Peterson" will testify that they saw on Nice's walls a photo of a child in pajamas with the words "Little Man."
Justin Falconer, who was a fellow juror, could testify about Nice talking a lot about Conner before he was dismissed. Peterson's lawyers say that Peterson would also testify about Nice saying that she was having financial difficulties and that they made jokes about movie and book deals after the trial.
Harris stated that Peterson's lawyers must prove to Massullo that Nice committed misconduct, and do so "based upon a bias towards convicting Scott." Harris agreed.
Nice replied "no" to a jury questionnaire asking if she has ever been a victim of a crime or in a lawsuit. In a sworn statement, she stated that she did not feel "victimized" in the sense the law might. She also said that the restraining orders were not a lawsuit.
Both prosecutors and defense lawyers were informed by her new attorney that she would cite her Fifth Amendment right to self-incrimination up until she is granted immunity.
Geoffrey Carr, the attorney, stated that he demanded immunity to protect his client against things that were certain in last year's sweared statement, but which she might evade on the witness stand.
He told The Associated Press that while most of the substance is correct, not all of it, and some of its interpretation is a matter how you interpret it. Sometimes, the language used in a sworn declaration is stronger than in reality.
Carr stated that he didn't anticipate any bombshells or surprises and that he wasn't expecting "any surprises" about what she would say. Carr said that he was telling Nice that his only obligation is to tell the truth.
Stanislaus County prosecutors and Peterson's lawyers are at odds over Nice's refusal of immunity to testify.
Peterson's lawyers stated in court filing that a juror's refusal of cooperation in an investigation into her misconduct could well be evidence of her bias. They also added that "a witness who has lied under the oath is definitely relevant to credibility."
However, prosecutors stated that Juror No. 7 to exercise her privilege against self incrimination... No inference can be drawn about the witness's credibility."