Ruling is expected today on search warrants

June 12, 2003 

A Stanislaus County Superior Court judge is expected to rule today on whether to unseal eight search warrants issued while police investigated Scott Peterson in the death of his pregnant wife, Laci.

Judge Roger M. Beauchesne held a closed hearing Friday after defense attorney Matt Dalton said releasing the documents would compromise evidence that points to the "real killers."

"We have information that could possibly affect the arrest of other suspects who are still out there," Dalton said during a hearing last week.

Beauchesne sealed the documents before Peterson was arrested April 18 and charged with two counts of murder in the deaths of his wife, Laci, and their unborn son, Conner.

Beauchesne had originally ordered the documents to be unsealed when a criminal complaint was filed in the case. But the 5th District Court of Appeal in Fresno overruled that segment of his order after prosecutors sought to keep the documents sealed. The appeals court ruled that the unsealing could not come automatically after an arrest. Rather, a hearing had to be held after a "change in circumstances," the court ruled.

Prosecutors say intense media scrutiny could sway potential jurors and hurt Peterson's chances at a fair trial.

The Bee's lawyer, Charity Kenyon -- who also represents several other newspapers and TV stations -- has argued that public access to court documents is vital for a transparent legal system.

Bee staff writer John Coté can be reached at 578-2394 or jcote@modbee.com.

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