Peterson attorney ready for trial

February 5, 2004 

REDWOOD CITY -- Scott Peterson's double-murder trial could get under way sooner than anticipated, thanks to changes in other trials involving his high-profile attorney.

"The defense is ready," Mark Geragos declared Wednesday. Starting full-bore next week would be "fine and dandy," he said.

Judge Alfred Delucchi this week had set a Monday hearing in the Peterson case to discuss scheduling and the order for hearing evidentiary motions. That was the only court date expected next week after Geragos said he had been ordered to start a murder trial in Pasadena.

But Tuesday, two of Geragos' trials -- the Pasa-dena one, the other in Orange County -- were delayed.

"I'm available," Geragos said Wednesday after the delay in the Pasadena case. But for how long remains an open question.

Michael Jackson's preliminary is Feb. 13

Pop star Michael Jackson, another high-profile Geragos client, is set to appear in a Santa Barbara County court Feb. 13 to discuss setting a date for his preliminary hearing on child molestation charges.

Another attorney could make that appearance for Geragos, legal observers said, but other questions about timing in the Peterson case remain.

Prosecutors "will be ready to go" if Delucchi decides Monday to commence the next day with motions about what evidence will be allowed -- often the opening phase of trial -- Chief Deputy District Attorney John Goold said.

"If we need to start doing motions on Tuesday, we're going to be able to do those motions," Goold said.

Both the prosecution and defense last week had suggested starting the motions Feb. 17, according to documents filed in San Mateo County Superior Court.

It was unclear Wednesday whether Delucchi would seek to forge ahead quickly.

Judy Lucier, a San Mateo County court official, said the court had not been officially notified about delays in Geragos' other trials.

"Until we're officially notified, we're not notified," Lucier said.

Judge could not be reached

Delucchi, who made his first appearance in the Peterson case Monday after the trial was ordered moved from Stanislaus County because of extensive publicity, could not be reached for comment.

Questions also swirled on whether the case would remain in San Mateo County. Geragos in court Monday said San Mateo may be a "way station."

The defense could seek to move the trial again, arguing that publicity in the Bay Area, like the San Joaquin Valley, endangers Peterson's ability to get a fair and impartial jury.

The 31-year-old Modesto man is charged with murdering his wife, Laci, and unborn son, Conner, in a case that has drawn international attention.

Geragos has made no secret for his desire to try the case in Los Angeles, where his office is. But a January report by the Administrative Office of the Courts, the state body that looked into possible locations for the trial, said Los Angeles could not accommodate the case at that time without "undue burden."

Of the four counties able to take the case, Geragos lobbied for Orange County.

Goold declined to comment on whether prosecutors, who opposed relocating the trial initially, would welcome another move.

"We'll try this case wherever a judge decides it needs to be tried," Goold said.

He also said prosecutors had not received official confirmation that the defense was surveying San Mateo County residents to gauge potential bias toward Peterson, a typical step taken when seeking to move a trial.

"We've been told by media outlets that they're doing another survey," Goold said. "We've not seen the survey. We've not seen the results of the survey."

News reports Wednesday indicated that Paul Strand, a political science professor at San Diego State University, was polling residents about their attitudes in the case.

Strand could not be reached for comment. He conducted one of two surveys the defense introduced in court in its initial bid to move the trial.

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

Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at 578-2390 or gstapley@modbee.com.

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