Attorneys duel over Peterson case

Nationally known consultant claims Geragos misled him

January 26, 2005 

  • Convicted murderer Scott Peterson's sentencing has been pushed back, from Feb. 25 to March 11, at the request of his defense team, Stanislaus County Assistant District Attorney Carol Shipley said Tuesday.

    Shipley said the case will return to court in Redwood City on Feb. 25, as planned, but only to certify that the record accumulated during Peterson's six-month trial is accurate.

    Judge Alfred Delucchi extended a Feb. 4 filing deadline until Feb. 18, giving defense attorneys Mark Geragos and Pat Harris two extra weeks to file a motion to set aside Peterson's guilty verdict and recommended death sentence.

    The judge is scheduled to hear arguments on the defense motion, and any opposition from prosecutors, March 11. Unless the judge rules in favor of the defense, Peterson would be sentenced at that time.

    On Nov. 12, a jury convicted Peterson of first-degree murder in the death of his wife, Laci, and second-degree murder in the death of their unborn son, Conner. On Dec. 13, the jury said the former fertilizer salesman should be sentenced to death.

A nationally known trial consultant says he missed a chance to work as a television commentator because celebrity lawyer Mark Geragos said he needed his help in Scott Peterson's double-murder trial.

But in papers filed Friday in Butte County Superior Court, Geragos said he never had any contract, oral or written, with Edward J. Bronson of Chico.

A partial ruling on the dispute, which is the basis for a small-claims case, is expected Friday. Geragos has asked that the case be dismissed.

"Mr. Bronson sought to inject himself into the Peterson case," Geragos said in a declaration to the court.

Bronson is seeking $5,625, which includes $625 for work on a change-of-venue motion and $5,000 for loss of income.

"This is a matter of principle," Bronson said.

Geragos, who has represented celebrity clients, is the better known of the two. But Bronson, a retired professor, has a high-profile reputation in the legal community.

He worked on the Unabomber case, the Oklahoma City bombing and the San Francisco dog-mauling murder.

Bronson said he is pursuing the small-claims case because Geragos was unprofessional and discourteous.

"I really would have gotten a kick out of doing television," he said. "And I also turned down some other cases because I thought I had this one."

The Stanislaus County Public Defender's Office first contacted Bronson about Peterson's case, to see if he would like to do survey work in preparation for a motion to move the trial from Stanislaus County.

Bronson said he called Geragos a few months after Geragos took over Peterson's case, because he had an offer to do commentary for ABC.

Bronson said he wanted to make sure he had no conflict, but instead received a request from Geragos to work on the case. Bronson gave the court copies of one e-mail and one fax from Geragos to support his claim.

In his declaration, Geragos said he never offered to retain Bronson; they merely discussed a gag order that said people involved in the case could not speak to the media.

Judge Pro Tem John Zorbas, who heard from Bronson and a representative from Geragos' office on Dec. 23, must decide whether the attorney and the consultant had a contract. He previously said he would issue a written ruling by Friday; by law he has 90 days from the date of submission to do so.

If the judge finds that a contract exists, he then will decide if Bronson is entitled to compensation.

Bee researcher Scott Jason contributed to this report.

Bee staff writer Susan Herendeen can be reached at 578-2338 or sherendeen@modbee.com.

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