Prosecutors join bid to bind evidence

July 1, 2003 

Prosecutors have joined Scott Peterson's defense attorneys in asking an appeals court to keep search warrants in the case sealed and remove the judge who ordered them opened, court documents show.

Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Roger M. Beauchesne earlier this month ordered eight search warrants issued before Peterson was arrested to be unsealed.

But Beauchesne delayed the release until July 8, allowing prosecutors and defense attorneys time to appeal. Both have now done so.

The 5th District Court of Appeal in Fresno has temporarily suspended Beauchesne's ruling as it considers the matter.

The search warrants could lay out much of authorities' case against Peterson, who has pleaded not guilty to killing his pregnant wife, Laci, and their unborn son, Conner.

Defense attorney Mark Geragos appealed Beauchesne's ruling June 17, arguing it jeopardized Peterson's right to a fair trial and constituted a "manifest abuse of discretion."

Geragos argued that two search warrant cases, a civil action brought by The Bee and then duplicated by other newspapers, should be heard by the same judge hearing the criminal case against Peterson.

Prosecutors agreed in their court filings last week. Senior Deputy District Attorney Dave Harris wrote that the warrants should stay sealed and "all media matters" transferred from Beauchesne to Judge Al Girolami, who is presiding over Peterson's double-murder case.

That request was a reversal from prosecutor's earlier position on the search warrants and raised legal questions.

Girolami had originally been assigned to hear the search warrant case brought by The Bee, but Harris used a peremptory challenge March 3 have him removed.

In the challenge, Harris wrote: "I believe I cannot have a fair an impartial hearing before said judge" because Girolami was "prejudiced against the interest of the party."

Attorneys had earlier asked Girolami to consolidate jurisdiction over the criminal and civil cases regarding Peterson, but Girolami declined, noting that he could not because he had already been removed from the search warrant case.

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


THE PETERSON FILE

Monday's developments

PARKING PASSES -- Effective today, police are requiring parking passes for media trucks parked across from the main Stanislaus County courthouse. A contingent of television trucks has remained parked along 11th Street since court proceedings began in the Scott Peterson case and typically occupy seven parking spaces. The permits cost $12.50 per parking space per day. Permit revenue will go to the city's general fund, Sgt. Ed Steele said.

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