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Scott Peterson’s lawyer, kin say COVID outbreak barring them from telling him death penalty overturned

EXCLUSIVE: Scott Peterson just escaped the needle – and he might not even know it.

The California Supreme Court on Monday overturned the wife killer’s death penalty sentence, but his lawyer and sister-in-law told Fox News on Monday that an outbreak of COVID-19 in San Quentin State Prison has blocked them from telling him the news directly.

Peterson has been on death row in San Quentin since 2005, when he was sentenced to die by lethal injection for the murder of his wife Laci and their unborn son Conner.

His attorney Mark Geragos told Fox News that he hasn’t been able to tell Peterson the news “because of the massive COVID issue” and isn’t sure when he will get a face-to-face meeting.

“I hope soon,” he said but didn’t provide a timeline.

SCOTT PETERSON: 15 YEARS LATER, A LOOK BACK AT A CASE THAT GRIPPED A NATION

Peterson’s sister-in-law and longtime advocate Janey Peterson also told Fox News that she hasn’t been able to get in touch with Peterson directly.

“We have not spoken with Scott today but we do believe he has heard the news,” she said.

REDWOOD CITY, CA - DECEMBER 1: Janey Peterson (R), sister-in-law to convicted murderer Scott Peterson, walks with Scott's sister, Susan Caudillo (L), as they leave the San Mateo Superior Court during a break December 1, 2004 in Redwood City, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

REDWOOD CITY, CA – DECEMBER 1: Janey Peterson (R), sister-in-law to convicted murderer Scott Peterson, walks with Scott’s sister, Susan Caudillo (L), as they leave the San Mateo Superior Court during a break December 1, 2004 in Redwood City, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The last time she visited Peterson was on March 8 before the COVID-19 lockdown.

San Quentin is California’s oldest prison and home to the only death row for men in the state. The prison has experienced the largest outbreak of coronavirus among prisoners in the state and at one time had more than a third of its population testing positive for the coronavirus.

Whether Peterson is celebrating behind bars remains a mystery but Janey Peterson says her family is “sincerely grateful that the California Supreme Court recognized the injustice of Scott’s death penalty.”

“For a long and difficult 18 years, we have believed unwaveringly in Scott’s innocence, so today’s decision by the court is a big step toward justice for Laci, Conner and Scott,” she said.

The court’s decision came nearly two decades after Laci, a Modesto, Calif., school teacher, was killed. Investigators said Peterson dumped his wife’s body from his fishing boat into the San Francisco Bay in 2002. The bodies of Laci and Conner surfaced months later.

While the murder conviction against Peterson stayed in place, the court ordered a new penalty phase trial.

“Peterson contends his trial was flawed for multiple reasons, beginning with the unusual amount of pretrial publicity that surrounded the case,” the court found. “We reject Peterson’s claim that he received an unfair trial as to guilt and thus affirm his convictions for murder.”

However, the court ruled the trial judge in Peterson’s case “made a series of clear and significant errors in jury selection that, under longstanding United States Supreme Court precedent, undermined Peterson’s right to an impartial jury at the penalty phase.”

The court also agreed that potential jurors improperly were dismissed from the jury pool after saying they personally disagreed with the death penalty but would be willing to impose it per California law.

Peterson, now 47, has also claimed on appeal that he couldn’t get a fair trial because of the massive publicity that surrounded his case, even though his trial was held nearly 90 miles away from his Central Valley home of Modesto to San Mateo County, south of San Francisco.

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 16: Attorney Mark Geragos (C) stands with his client Matthew Fletcher(L) and Thaddeus Culpepper during their arraignment hearing at Criminal Courts Building on March 16, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES, CA – MARCH 16: Attorney Mark Geragos (C) stands with his client Matthew Fletcher(L) and Thaddeus Culpepper during their arraignment hearing at Criminal Courts Building on March 16, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

Peterson’s case grabbed national headlines and intense pressure was put on investigators to find her killer. They chased nearly 10,000 tips and considered parolees and convicted sex offenders as possible suspects.

On Dec. 24, 2002, Peterson called his mother-in-law, Sharon Rocha, in the early evening to ask if Laci was with her. He told Rocha he had returned from a day of fishing and when he got home, Laci’s car was in the driveway and their dog was in the backyard with his leash on.

The call to Rocha around 5:15 p.m. would set off a chain of events that would move an entire community, which jumped into action to find the missing mom to be. As the days and weeks went on, the search for Laci, who was 8 1/2 months pregnant when she disappeared, became more desperate.

Peterson claimed she was home the morning he left for his fishing trip in the San Francisco Bay and that was the last time he saw her.

Laci’s family went on television, pleading for her safe return and for any information to help find her.

“Please bring my daughter home,” Rocha asked the public in one news conference.

Attention soon turned to Peterson, who has maintained he had nothing to do with Laci’s disappearance.

One month after Laci’s disappearance, police revealed her husband was living a double life, having an affair with a massage therapist who was living in Fresno by the name of Amber Frey.

On April 13, 2003, the body of a baby boy was discovered along the shore of San Francisco Bay. The next day, the body of an adult female wearing maternity clothes was found nearby. The bodies were positively identified as those of Laci and her unborn son Conner.

Peterson was arrested in San Diego just days after the bodies were discovered.

Janey Peterson says her next steps are to wait for word on whether Stanislaus County District Attorney Birgit Fladager will choose to pursue a new penalty phase trial.

“If the DA elects to do so, a new jury would be seated, and they would hear all the evidence,” she said. “They would then decide on Scott’s sentence. Life without the possibility of parole or the death penalty.”

Janey Peterson said she is also waiting for the court “to address the new forensic and eyewitness evidence” that she believes will show Laci was alive the morning of Dec. 24 and “demonstrates Scott’s innocence.”

“When the court reviews this in the coming months, we are confident they will grant Scott a new guilt phase trial,” she added.

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Geragos also remains largely optimistic that Peterson will get what he believes is a fair shake by the judicial system.

“(Scott) always wanted to be vindicated” and for people to know “he didn’t do this,” Geragos said, adding that he hopes the number of years might have given people the opportunity “to take a more sober look at what happened.”

Fox News’ Laura Ingle contributed to this report. 

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