Scott Peterson juror denies bias during 2004 trial
The juror at the heart of San Diego native and convicted murderer Scott Peterson’s retrial bid swore Friday that she had no animosity toward him until after she heard evidence that he had killed his pregnant wife in a case that grabbed worldwide attention in 2004.
“Before the trial, I didn’t have any anger or any resentment toward Scott at all. After the trial it was a bit true because I sat through the trial and listened to the evidence,” testified former juror Richelle Nice.
Peterson's lawyers want to prove that she held a secret bias against him that prevented him from getting a fair trial, and that she lied on her jury questionnaire to get there.
But she generally stuck to her earlier written statements under questioning. She said she didn't consider herself a victim of domestic violence, didn't directly fear for her own unborn child and relied on the evidence during trial.
Nice helped convict Peterson in 2004 of the murders of his wife, Laci Peterson, 27, who was eight months pregnant, and of the unborn son they planned to name Conner. Prosecutors say he dumped his wife’s body into San Francisco Bay on Christmas Eve 2002. The remains surfaced months later.
Nice testified only after she was granted immunity from perjury prosecution for misstatements she may have made in the earlier sworn statement.
In it, and in Friday's testimony, she explained why she didn’t disclose on a pre-trial jury questionnaire that she had sought a restraining order while pregnant in 2000, saying then that she “really fears for her unborn child.”
She also disputed on the stand court documents indicating that her live-in boyfriend had assaulted her while she was again pregnant, testifying that it was she who hit him.
Nice initially invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination Friday on the advice of her new attorney. She testified once she was granted immunity from prosecution.
Nice is being addressed in court by name, though she previously was referred to as Juror 7. She also used her name during post-trial media interviews and when she co-authored a book about the case with six other jurors.
She was nicknamed “Strawberry Shortcake” during the trial for her dyed bright red hair, which is now brown on top and blondish at the bottom.
Peterson appeared in court wearing a San Mateo County Jail uniform after Superior Court Judge Anne-Christine Massullo denied his request to wear street clothes for what is expected to be a week-long hearing.
Massullo is charged by the California Supreme Court with deciding if Nice committed misconduct by not disclosing her own history before she became a juror, and if she held a bias that denied Peterson a fair trial.
Nice generally said her previous sworn written denials were true, but with some nuances.
She didn't consider herself a victim of domestic violence because in the case in 2000, her boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend didn't directly threaten her unborn child — despite the wording in her application for a restraining order at the time.
“She didn’t threaten my baby,” Nice testified, saying that she included her unborn child in her application because "I was being spiteful.”
"I was in fear if we fought. She wasn’t going to deliberately hurt my child, but if we fought and rolled around like some dummies on the ground … I was in fear I would lose my child doing something stupid like that,” Nice testified.
And although her live-in boyfriend in 2001 was arrested, pleaded guilty and was ordered through a restraining order to stay 100 yards (91 meters) from her, Nice said the truth was that she hit him and not the other way around.
“Eddie never hit me, so I was not a victim of domestic violence,” she testified. “I did punch him, yes.”
It was her boyfriend who then called the police on her, but she didn't cooperate and it backfired when he was arrested instead, Nice testified.
She said police may have been misled into arresting the wrong person because she had inadvertently cut her lip on the braces she was wearing at the time.
Nice generally stuck by her answer on a jury questionnaire when she answered “no” to having ever been a crime victim or involved in a lawsuit.
She also stood by her sworn declaration in 2020 that she didn’t “feel ‘victimized’ the way the law might define that term,” and didn’t think the restraining order was a lawsuit.
“I’ve been in many fights and I don’t consider myself a victim. It may be different for you or somebody else," she answered under questioning by Pat Harris, one of Petersons' attorneys.
She again denied having a bias against Peterson, as she previously stated in her 2020 declaration.
Nice swore her statement then is “absolutely true” when she said in the written declaration that she did “not form any conclusions regarding the evidence in the case until I was called into the jury deliberation room.”
She also said her prior written statement is true when she swore then that she has an “abiding conviction that the charges are true based on the evidence that was presented at trial. This abiding conviction is based solely on the strength of the evidence presented at trial.”
Peterson's attorneys plan to put on other witnesses they contend show that Nice went into the trial biased because she could relate as a mother to the death of Peterson's unborn baby, who Nice referred to as “little man.”
A fellow former juror could also testify that Nice said she was having financial problems and that they joked about post-trial book and movie deals.
The judge will have up to 90 days after the hearing to announce her ruling, which can be appealed by either side.