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Judge keeps Peterson hearing open
CNN.com/Law center ^ | August 14, 2003

Posted on 08/15/2003 5:59:11 AM PDT by runningbear

Judge keeps Peterson hearing open

Thursday, August 14, 2003 Posted: 4:43 PM EDT (2043 GMT)


Defendant Scott Peterson, left, in a previous courtroom appearance.

MODESTO, California (CNN) -- The September preliminary hearing for a man accused of killing his pregnant wife will not exclude the public, a judge ruled Thursday.

Stanislaus Superior Court Judge Al Girolami said he would take a few days to decide, however, whether cameras should be permitted at the September 9 preliminary hearing for Scott Peterson.

After the ruling, Peterson attorney Mark Geragos withdrew his request to ban cameras from the courtroom.

"We might as well open it up entirely and pollute the entire state," Geragos said. A prosecution request to ban cameras remained in place.

Peterson, 30, has pleaded innocent in the killings of his pregnant wife, Laci Peterson, 27, who vanished on Christmas Eve, and their unborn son. The bodies washed ashore in April along the San Francisco Bay.

Earlier Thursday, the parents of Laci Peterson sent a letter via fax to the news media begging them to omit "unnecessary graphic details" when reporting on the deaths.

Several broadcast outlets, including CNN, Court TV and the networks, have argued that a camera should be allowed at the September hearing.

"The events of this week have once again added pain to our daily grief as we read in the newspaper details regarding our daughter and grandson's remains," said the letter, which was signed by attorney Adam Stewart.

The family, including Laci Peterson's mother, Sharon Rocha, also pleaded with Geragos to do everything he can to get the bodies released so the family can bury them "in dignity and peace when the time comes."

Officials said Thursday that after the remains are X-rayed, the court and prosecutors will hand them over to her family.

Defense attorneys earlier this week filed a court document against the media petition, saying a camera would prohibit Peterson from having a fair trial.

The defense pointed out that the gag order, which pertains to all statements by witnesses and counsel, was issued to protect the ability of both sides to select a fair and impartial jury.

In addition, if the hearing is open to the media, "the mere introduction of evidence at the preliminary hearing" could put the party introducing that evidence in violation of the gag order, the defense said.

The Stanislaus County district attorney has requested that Girolami bar cameras from the preliminary hearing out of respect for Laci Peterson's family.

Television media attorneys have countered that neither the prosecution nor defense argument offers sufficient reason to prohibit cameras.

They said that when the family, the police and Scott Peterson himself asked for national publicity to help find Laci Peterson, they received it.

The media attorneys also offered federal and state studies purportedly showing that cameras in courtrooms had little or no influence on the conduct of trials.

Also earlier this week, defense attorneys were allowed to look at the remains and allowed to take tissue samples. The bodies are at the Contra Costa coroner's office.

Other developments:

• Girolami responded to a prosecution motion to survey registered voters in Stanislaus and two other counties about how familiar they are with the case. The prosecution hopes to use the responses to fight any defense request for a change of venue. The judge said that before he makes a decision he wants to see a copy of the questionnaire.

• Girolami ordered that information from wiretaps on Scott Peterson remain sealed until a decision is made on whether to admit it as evidence.

• Girolami asked the district attorney to investigate whether defense attorneys violated a court gag order based on an article in the Modesto .....

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Peterson hearing to be open to public Decision next week on whether to allow live TV during trial

Peterson hearing to be open to public Decision next week on whether to allow live TV during trial

Charlie Goodyear, Chronicle Staff Writer Friday, August 15, 2003

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Modesto -- A preliminary hearing of the evidence against Scott Peterson will be open to the press and public, a judge ruled Thursday in overruling defense objections that it would prejudice potential jurors in Peterson's double-murder trial.

Judge Al Girolami of Stanislaus County Superior Court rejected arguments from Peterson's attorney, Mark Geragos, that a public hearing would hurt Peterson's chances of a fair trial. The preliminary hearing next month will be the public's first intimate look at evidence in the case and whether there is enough probable cause to hold Peterson over for trial.

Geragos had argued that some of the evidence the prosecution may present at the preliminary hearing might not be introduced in a trial. There is no way to keep potential jurors from hearing such tidbits, he said.

"We are in Stanislaus County, not in L.A. County," Geragos told Girolami. "I invite you any time you want to move this case to Los Angeles County, and we could do an open hearing there."

Girolami said there was no way of knowing whether the defense's fears were well-founded. "The harm expected is speculative," he said.

Peterson, 30, is charged with the murder of his 27-year-old wife, Laci Peterson, and the couple's unborn son. The victims' bodies washed up on a Richmond shoreline in April.

After losing his bid to keep the hearing sealed, Geragos told the judge he believed the proceedings should be televised. "The accuracy of the information when it's not televised is always suspect," he said.

Prosecutors oppose having a camera in the courtroom, saying it would distort the proceedings and intimidate witnesses.

Girolami said he would rule in a few days on whether to allow Court TV to provide a live feed to broadcast networks for the hearing in Modesto scheduled for Sept. 9.

Also Thursday, Girolami ordered an inquiry into an article that ran Wednesday in the Modesto Bee quoting a defense lawyer discussing a theory that Laci Peterson's body could have been dumped into the bay near a location in Albany where supposedly satanic artwork was found. Defense lawyers have indicated they will try to show that the killings were carried out by a satanic cult.

On Thursday, Geragos blamed "eavesdropping" for the report, noting that a reporter had been present in the lobby of a crime lab in Ripon .......

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Hearing open to public


Scott Peterson and attorney Mark Geragos, right, confer during Thursday's proceeding. AL GOLUB/THE BEE


Joe Peterson, Scott Peterson's brother, removes a parking ticket in front of the courthouse Thursday. DEBBIE NODA/THE BEE

Hearing open to public

By JOHN COTÉ and GARTH STAPLEY
BEE STAFF WRITERS

Published: August 15, 2003, 05:03:08 AM PDT

Scott Peterson's preliminary hearing on double murder charges will be open to the public, Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Al Girolami ruled Thursday. He delayed a decision on allowing cameras in the courtroom, saying he would issue a ruling in the next two days.

Also, Girolami said the defense camp earlier this week appeared to violate his gag order when, in front of a Bee reporter and photographer, an attorney discussed a theory regarding satanic ritual killings. The judge said he will consider the matter after the preliminary hearing.

Peterson, a 30-year-old Modestan, is charged in the deaths of his wife, Laci, 27, and their unborn son, Conner, and could receive the death penalty if convicted on both counts.

A preliminary hearing to determine whether there is enough evidence for a trial set for Sept. 9.

Defense attorney Mark Geragos had asked for the hearing's closure, arguing that widespread media coverage would poison jurors' minds and taint potential witnesses.

Charity Kenyon, an attorney for a group of newspapers that includes The Bee, fought to keep the hearing open, noting that similar proceedings in high-profile murder trials -- including those of O.J. Simpson, actor Robert Blake and convicted Yosemite killer Cary Stayner -- all have been open.

"This case has seen unusual publicity, but that does not mean unprecedented," said Rochelle Wilcox, an attorney representing broadcast media outlets. "Not everyone pays attention to what happens in this courtroom."

Geragos argued that the Peterson case was unique because it has created a "massive drumbeat within a small community" that would not have the same reverberation in a larger county like Los Angeles, where Geragos is from.

"I invite you, anytime you want, to move this case to LA County and we'll do an open prelim," Geragos said.

The judge said the high legal bar set by the U.S. Supreme Court to close a preliminary hearing had not been met, "even considering that this is a capital case."

"In short, this court cannot make a blanket closure," Girolami said.

Geragos later said he would not object to live TV coverage of the proceedings: "What the heck, let's just open it up and pollute the entire state."

Prosecutors and Laci Peterson's family are opposed to cameras in the courtroom.

'Not for entertainment'

"This is not for entertainment; this is not for ratings," Senior Deputy District Attorney Dave Harris said in court as Laci Peterson's mother and stepfather, Sharon Rocha and Ron Grantski, brother, Brent Rocha, and sister, Amy Rocha, sat in the front row behind him.

Harris also contended that it is "human.....

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Thursday's statement from the Rocha family

Thursday's statement from the Rocha family

Published: August 14, 2003, 04:02:00 PM PDT

Adam Stewart, attorney for the Rocha family, sent this letter to various news organizations Thursday: Sharon Rocha and all of Laci's family have asked that the following statement be issued on their behalf in response to numerous requests from the media for comment:

"These past eight months have been tremendously difficult for our family as we put so much hope and energy behind searching for Laci only to have our worst fears confirmed in April. There are no words to describe the pain we felt when we learned the remains were those of our beautiful daughter and unborn grandson. We have spent these past four months enduring this pain every day, every hour, every minute.

"The events of this week have once again added pain to our daily grief as we read in the newspaper details regarding our daughter and grandson's remains and hear unnecessary graphic details when we turn on the television. We respectfully ask that all deliberate attention and effort be made by Mr. Geragos to return Laci and Conner to us. As the family, we plead with the media to be sensitive to the fact that this is not a media story to us. This is our Laci and Conner whom we love with all our hearts. This is not a story … this is our life.

"Please treat her in death respectfully so that we as her family will be allowed to lay her and Conner to rest in dignity and peace when the time comes. We ask that you respect our privacy and understand our pain as we grieve for our beautiful Laci and baby Conner."

AND THE PRESS RELEASE OF THE MINUTES:

Superior Court, Stanislaus County August 14, 2003

Minute Order: (1) Defendant's Motion to Close Preliminary Hearing; (2) Media Motion to allow TV/Audio Coverage of the Preliminary Hearing; (3) People's Motion for Venue Survey; (4) People's Motion to Seal Part of the Opposition to the Defendant's Suppression Motion

(Excerpt) Read more at cnn.com ...


TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Extended News; Government; News/Current Events; US: California
KEYWORDS: lacipeterson
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To: Yaelle
Yaelle, wouldn't it be just spectacular is they actually found the skull or one of the missing limbs, WHILE the preliminary or the trial was going on??
151 posted on 08/19/2003 11:29:03 PM PDT by Devil_Anse
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To: Devil_Anse; runningbear; Sandylapper; Canadian Outrage; All
PROSECUTORS HYPNOTIZE LACI LOOKALIKE

By HOWARD BREUER and DAVID K. LI



August 20, 2003 -- The prosecution in the Laci Peterson murder case hypnotized a dog walker who resembles her in hopes of poking holes in husband Scott Peterson's defense, sources told The Post yesterday.
Cops believe Scott murdered Laci last Christmas Eve, before driving her body to Berkeley, Calif., and dumping it into San Francisco Bay. The defense has claimed witnesses spotted the pregnant woman walking her dog in Modesto at the time Scott Peterson allegedly murdered her.

To cut off the defense, prosecutors hope to show those witnesses were mistaking dog-walking Modesto resident Kristen Dempewolf, 34, for Laci, sources told The Post.

Both women were at about the same stage of pregnancy on Christmas Eve. Dempewolf delivered her baby at a Modesto hospital in early January - around the same time Laci Peterson would have given birth to son Conner.

Dempewolf's name surfaced on Monday, when unsealed court documents listed her - misspelled as "Deppenwolf" - as a witness interviewed under hypnosis. Investigators hypnotized Dempewolf so she could specifically recall when and where she was walking her dog on Christmas Eve, sources said.


Prosecutors need to discredit witnesses who reported seeing Laci walking her dog on Dec. 24 so they can defend their theory that Scott killed Laci in their home "on or about and between" Dec. 23 and 24 and dumped her body near San Francisco.

http://www.nypost.com/news/nationalnews/3670.htm

152 posted on 08/20/2003 5:25:33 AM PDT by Velveeta
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To: Velveeta
WOW!!! Thanks, Vel!!

I think the prosecution deliberately misspelled her name in that document b/c they knew it would be released, and they hoped to give her a few more days of freedom from the mobbing press. LOL! Needless to say, as soon as Sandylapper pointed out that name in the pleadings, I was looking it up on Anywho.com--and finding absolutely nothing, since the name was misspelled.
153 posted on 08/20/2003 9:17:24 AM PDT by Devil_Anse
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To: Velveeta
Prosecutors need to discredit witnesses who reported seeing Laci walking her dog on Dec. 24 so they can defend their theory that Scott killed Laci in their home "on or about and between" Dec. 23 and 24 and dumped her body near San Francisco.

Thanks a million, Vel! Good info. The bad news is that there is not good, hard evidence in the home that she was murdered there. I was hoping that LE was "holding out".

154 posted on 08/20/2003 1:29:45 PM PDT by Sandylapper
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To: Devil_Anse
They probably did misspell her name on purpose. This woman must not be the DA we talked about. I think/thought her baby was born in October.
155 posted on 08/20/2003 1:32:27 PM PDT by Sandylapper
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To: Sandylapper; Devil_Anse; runningbear
I thought I had found some "breaking news", but (as usual) Runningbear had the scoop on today's thread 5 minutes before I did. I'm convinced she never sleeps!

I wonder if this is the woman that Vivian Mitchell thinks was Laci. Would love to know what she looks like!
156 posted on 08/20/2003 1:35:35 PM PDT by Velveeta
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To: Velveeta
LOL....

I had some thoughts on this earlier, but lost it in my daily duties at work....lol...

157 posted on 08/20/2003 5:25:25 PM PDT by runningbear (Lurkers beware, Freeping is public opinions based on facts, theories, and news online.......)
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To: Velveeta; All
Here is some breaking news I heard as I was going home today:

Breaking News: Defense team seeks to close Peterson's preliminary hearing to public

Breaking News: Defense team seeks to close Peterson's preliminary hearing to public

By JOHN COTÉ
BEE STAFF WRITER
Published: August 20, 2003, 12:31:39 PM PDT

Scott Peterson's defense team went to the state's 5th District Court of Appeal today in an effort to have Peterson's preliminary hearing closed to the public. Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Al Girolami rejected the defense motion for closure last week, and now the defense is asking the appellate court to overturn Girolami's decision.

"If the preliminary hearing occurs without this court's intervention, the prejudice to Mr. Peterson and this investigation will be irreversible," defense attorney Mark Geragos wrote in documents filed with the 5th District court in Fresno.

The defense contends that closing the hearing is necessary to protect Peterson's right to a fair trial by an impartial jury, and asks the appellate court for "immediate intervention."

Peterson's hearing on double murder charges is scheduled for Sept. 9. At such hearings, the prosecution presents at least some of its evidence, and judges then consider whether the evidence is sufficient for trials.

Peterson, 30, of Modesto could get the death penalty if convicted in the slayings of his 27-year-old wife, Laci, and their unborn son, Conner.

In denying the defense motion for a closed hearing, Girolami said the defense had not met the high legal threshold to exclude the public from a normally open proceeding.

Girolami also said "the harm expected is speculative and not unlike that in other high publicity cases."

Media attorneys noted that other high profile murder cases - including the prosecutions of O.J. Simpson, actor Robert Blake and Yosemite sightseer killer Cary Stayner - all have included open preliminary hearings.

Girolami decided Monday that he will not allow television ....... pending follow ups maybe tomorrow...

This case is getting stranger. I think Geragos is cooked! ;o)

Why else would he ask for close hearings, after he couldn't get full disclosure hearings? After all, it is the defense asking for delays, not the prosecution!

158 posted on 08/20/2003 5:32:20 PM PDT by runningbear (Lurkers beware, Freeping is public opinions based on facts, theories, and news online.......)
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To: Sandylapper
there seemed to be consensus that prosecution should have gone the grand jury route vs. the prelim.

Brazelton wants the prelim so that he can put some real evidence out there to debunk the goofy defense theories. At least that's what he said a month or so ago.

159 posted on 08/20/2003 7:29:39 PM PDT by RGSpincich
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To: RGSpincich
This is good news to me. I think Geragos "knows" Peterson killed his wife and baby and he "knows" that LE has good evidence and he's extremely desperate to keep it out of the public domain. I have always had a feeling that Amy Rocha's visit to the Peterson home with the Police produced something very valuable AND I have a suspicion that something in the way of clothing that they found on Laci's corpse was also telling eg> PJ'!!
160 posted on 08/21/2003 5:28:23 PM PDT by Canadian Outrage (All us Western Canuks belong South)
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To: Devil_Anse
I was offline for a few days due to a lousy router.

I did have the misfortune of seeing a narcissist up close: my ex-MIL. She had more self-help books on her shelf than anyone I have ever seen, and didn't seem to have gleaned anything from any one of them.

You are eagle-eye. I didn't notice that he had shaved the sides of his head before the deed. I know he wore the cap almost constantly. Since there is evidence that suggests the whole thing was planned for that day, I agree that he probably was getting his appearance in shape for looks and for deception re Amber (and others?). You are sharp.

161 posted on 08/22/2003 11:52:16 PM PDT by Yaelle
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To: Devil_Anse
"ANYONE BRINGING A CELLPHONE INTO THIS COURT WILL BE SHOT"

I think this is fair. LOL!

I think it will take a couple of days but once we newshounds figure out the best source, the others will stick to the facts, ma'am, to stay competitive. Yes, especially since we will have transcripts the next day.

162 posted on 08/22/2003 11:55:05 PM PDT by Yaelle
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To: Devil_Anse
Yaelle, wouldn't it be just spectacular is they actually found the skull or one of the missing limbs, WHILE the preliminary or the trial was going on??

Wish we could ensure that. I would prefer it come AFTER Geragos's opening statements in which he sets up some bogus theories that would thusly be proven wrong.

163 posted on 08/22/2003 11:57:19 PM PDT by Yaelle
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To: Yaelle
LOL, thanks! Trust me, I had help! Many persons on these threads noticed right off the bat that the cap was only worn until it was clear that Amber knew he'd been married to Laci. I looked back at the pictures of him in the cap, and there was none of his hair visible at all!
164 posted on 08/23/2003 7:38:13 AM PDT by Devil_Anse
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To: Yaelle
If only... if ONLY!

It could happen! Hey, I never thought the bodies would even be found!
165 posted on 08/23/2003 7:39:36 AM PDT by Devil_Anse
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