Scott Peterson's attorney formally appealed his death sentence Thursday, seeking freedom a day after Independence Day and more than seven years after he was convicted of murdering his pregnant wife and their unborn son.
Jurors were unduly swayed by massive publicity, Berkeley attorney Cliff Gardner says in the 470-page appeal, even though the trial was moved from Modesto to Redwood City.
"It is probably fair to say that there are not many cases in the history of California where the state obtained a guilty verdict and death sentence for murder absent of how, where or when the murder occurred," Gardner argues.
Laci Peterson was eight months pregnant when she disappeared Christmas Eve 2002. Her husband said he had been fishing in a newly purchased boat in San Francisco Bay and returned to an empty house.
The badly decomposed bodies of mother and fetus washed ashore four months later, and he was tried and convicted in a blockbuster trial stretching most of 2004, arriving on death row in March 2005.
No juror contacted by The Modesto Bee many times over the years has second-guessed the unanimous decision.
Pervasive publicity cast Scott Peterson in a negative light, Gardner says in court documents released late Thursday.
Gardner questions why prosecutors were allowed to introduce "highly prejudicial dog scent evidence" and an expert in movement of bodies in water, while defense attorneys were barred from showing a video casting doubt on the theory of dumping overboard a body without capsizing.
"Mr. Peterson recognizes, of course, that he was not entitled to a perfect trial," Gardner writes. "But he was still entitled to a fair one."
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