By: Brian Melley, Associated Press Writer
(AP) Prosecutors seeking the death penalty against Scott Peterson in the death of his wife and unborn son say news coverage of the case is so widespread there is no point in moving the trial. Peterson’s attorney claims a “lynch mob atmosphere” prevents him from getting a fair trial in Stanislaus County.
Judge Al Girolami was scheduled to hear arguments Thursday on the defense’s request to move the trial. Girolami can keep the case in Modesto, order it moved out of the county or select a jury in another county and bus members to the courthouse each day of the trial.
The judge has suggested jurors could be selected in neighboring San Joaquin County and transported 30 miles each day from Stockton.
Peterson, 31, is charged with two counts of murder in the killings of his pregnant wife, Laci, and unborn son. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
The trial is scheduled Jan. 26, but would most likely be postponed if there is a change in location.
In documents filed with the court last month, Geragos said surveys showed there was less bias against Peterson in Los Angeles, Sacramento, Alameda and Santa Clara counties.
He cited many examples of the hostility Scott Peterson has faced since he was arrested in April after the remains of his wife and her fetus washed ashore in San Francisco Bay. The remains were found near where Peterson said he was fishing when his wife disappeared from their home on Christmas Eve 2002.
A crowd of more than 100 people waited outside the jail when Peterson was brought in for booking, some shouting “murderer,” and Peterson’s house was vandalized twice. Geragos also said that T-shirts have been sold with Peterson’s likeness and the motto: “Modesto, a killer place to live.”
Prosecutors said fair jurors could be found in the county of more than 480,000 people. They blamed much of the publicity on Geragos’ “media grandstanding” and said he was trying to inflame the court by hurling invective and accusations.