Scott Peterson hurrying death-penalty appeal

Scott Peterson will take the next step in his death-sentence appeal in less than four months, the office of the California Supreme Court said Monday.

That would be a relatively quick response to the prosecution’s latest brief, filed in January. The Modesto man’s camp has said that Peterson, 42, wants to expedite a legal process that can take decades; his wife’s survivors say he could end up on a fast track to the death chamber if the strategy backfires.

An appeals prosecutor in January said Peterson’s yearning to be free from marriage and impending fatherhood prompted him to murder his 27-year-old pregnant wife, Laci, and their unborn son, Conner, at Christmastime 2002. Peterson 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 nearly four months later.

A blockbuster trial stretching over much of 2004 featured testimony from his girlfriend, Fresno massage therapist Amber Frey, and ended with a guilty verdict and his arrival on death row in March 2005. Peterson’s appeal attorney, Cliff Gardner, filed his appeal seven years later – considered fast – and told the Supreme Court he will respond to prosecutors’ January brief by July 27.

Peterson’s 2012 appeal says that evidence was weak and claims that Judge Alfred Delucci, who since has died, made several missteps that warrant a new trial. The state attorney general’s office responded that Peterson, “fueled by the trifecta of selfishness, arrogance and wanderlust, decided to take matters into his own hands” and murdered Laci and Conner.

The California Appellate Courts Case Information System provides case information for California Supreme Court and Court of Appeal cases. Case information is updated once an hour throughout the business day.

California has not had an execution in nine years. There were 753 condemned prisoners on death row as of March 9.

Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at gstapley@modbee.com or (209) 578-2390.