12/20/2005 at 08:00 AM EST
Convicted killer Scott Peterson lost his bid to claim his murdered wife Laci Peterson's $250,000 life-insurance money – which has been awarded to Laci's mother, Sharon Rocha, Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Roger Beauchesne ruled on Friday after a protracted court battle.
The jurist had previously awarded Rocha the money in October, but set aside his ruling after Scott's attorneys sought a time extension so they could argue the case, the Associated Press reports.
Peterson's attorney, Pat Harris, is now arguing that the insurance money should not be transferred to Rocha while his client's death penalty case is on appeal. Peterson, who was convicted in the Christmas Eve 2002 killings of his pregnant wife, Laci, and the fetus she carried, is currently on death row in San Quentin. He maintains his innocence.
Rocha's attorney, Adam Stewart, argued that Rocha should not be kept waiting for the funds. "We have a felony conviction," Stewart said. "That is evidence the court can look at."
California law states that people who kill their spouses forfeit their inheritance rights. The California Supreme Court automatically reviews death-penalty cases in a process that can take decades.