The parents of Laci Peterson quietly dropped a wrongful death lawsuit against death row inmate Scott Peterson last week, a court official said, leaving a Stanislaus County Superior Court judge with no reason to call the case that had been scheduled for a hearing this morning.
A trial was slated to begin next month, but Modesto’s most notorious offender would not have been transported from San Quentin State Prison. And even if Scott Peterson’s former in-laws had won a multi-million-dollar judgment, it would have been largely symbolic.
The litigation did not shed much more light on a sensational capital case that ended in guilty verdicts in fall 2004 and sent Scott Peterson, formerly a fertilizer salesman, to death row in spring 2005.
In a videotaped deposition taken in jail, Scott Peterson insisted that he did not kill his wife and unborn son. He also asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination, declining to answer questions 195 times, according to a transcript that is part of the public record.
It was unclear if a settlement had been reached, though a court official said attorneys for Sharon Rocha and her ex-husband Dennis Rocha filed papers to dismiss the case.
Whatever prompted the change of heart is unclear, but attorney Pat Harris, who represented Scott Peterson at trial along with celebrity attorney Mark Geragos, said his client has no plans to sell his story and nothing left to lose.
“He is sitting on death row,” Harris said. “I think he gets $120 a month in commissary and that’s about it.”
Attorneys who brought the case could not be reached for comment; nor could Sharon Rocha of Modesto, or her ex-husband Dennis Rocha of Escalon.
The time and expense of trial could have been an issue.
Lawyers for the Rochas argued that the trial should take only a few days and revolve solely around a monetary award. Peterson’s lawyers maintained his innocence, saying convictions alone are not enough to prove wrongful death, particularly while the case is on appeal at the California Supreme Court.
The judge sided with Peterson, setting aside five weeks to hear the evidence.
Scott Peterson’s conviction is on appeal in the California Supreme Court.