The juror at the heart of allegations of misconduct by Scott Peterson in her quest for a new trial will be granted immunity before testifying on February 25.
Stanislaus County District Attorney Birgit Fladager said Monday she intends to grant immunity and will prepare a document if Richelle Nice invokes the Fifth Amendment, as her attorney had announced.
The issue was one of about 20 discussed at a motion hearing ahead of an evidence hearing beginning Feb. 25 and continuing through early March. Superior Court Judge Anne-Christine Massullo will decide within 90 days of the conclusion of the hearing whether to overturn Peterson’s conviction for the murders of his wife Laci and their unborn son Conner.
Peterson’s attorney alleges Nice – identified in court documents as juror 7 – lied during the jury selection process for Peterson’s 2004 trial when she wrote on a questionnaire that she had never been victim of a crime or involved in a trial.
They claim she wanted so badly to judge him, “in part to punish him for hurting her unborn child – a crime she personally suffered when (an attacker) threatened her life and that of her unborn child.”
Nice was pregnant in 2001 when she got a restraining order — a kind of lawsuit — against her then-boyfriend’s former girlfriend for harassing and threatening them. Additionally, the previous year, the same boyfriend had been arrested on domestic violence charges in an incident that named her as a victim.
Prosecutors argue the questionnaire asked if she had ever been tried and Nice did not understand that a restraining order is a type of trial. Regarding the domestic violence incident, Nice filed a statement describing the incident as a “heated argument.” She said it was her then-boyfriend, not her, who called the police and she did not see herself as a victim.
It is this statement, should her testimony deviate from it, that makes her vulnerable to a potential perjury charge, according to her attorney.
During Monday’s hearings, there were also questions about whether a book Nice co-wrote, letters she wrote to Peterson on death row, or things she said to other people , all after the trial, could be presented as evidence of his alleged bias.
“Events that occurred after the verdict in this case are not helpful to this investigation and are not relevant,” the prosecution wrote in its motion. They asked the court “to exclude all attempts by (Peterson’s attorneys) to obtain post-verdict media interviews, pseudo-documentaries, alleged re-enactments, post-verdict letters allegedly written by Juror 7, etc.”
Peterson’s attorney responded that Nice “has literally been in dozens of media interviews about his involvement in the case. She took the extraordinary step of entering into a lengthy correspondence with Mr. Peterson while he was on death row…(and) made numerous statements about her role in the case.
They said the district attorney “carried the heavy burden of proving no harm…the question is not when those statements were made, but what those statements are.”
Judge Massullo said there may be valid reasons why Peterson’s lawyers want to present certain information that came out after juror number 7 completed her questionnaire.
She said it would be premature to rule anything out now and the prosecution could raise objections when hearing evidence.
Other issues were tracked until a hearing scheduled for February 17, such as who can testify remotely or wear a face shield instead of a mask and who can be present in court. Many of these issues could change as the state’s current mask mandate is due to expire on February 15.