A judge's final word on whether Scott Peterson should be executed could be delayed again at a hearing Friday, sources said.
Formal sentencing for the Modesto man, convicted of murdering his pregnant wife and their unborn child, previously was changed from Friday to March 11. A possible scheduling conflict could push that back again, sources said Wednesday.
Friday's hearing in Redwood City is expected to be brief. Attorneys on both sides will be asked to approve transcriptions of court proceedings, which stretched from June 1 to Dec. 13, when jurors returned a death-sentence recommendation.
They earlier had convicted the 32-year-old fertilizer salesman of killing Laci Peterson around Christmas Eve 2002 and dumping her in San Francisco Bay. The bodies of mother and son washed ashore nearly four months later.
Judge Alfred Delucchi can change the punishment to life in prison without parole, though reducing capital sentences is not common.
Documents filed under seal by attorneys on both sides since the jury's Dec. 13 sentence might be released Friday.
In related news, the man who raised Laci Peterson as his daughter testified this week in favor of fetal protection legislation in a state where his future grandchildren could live.
Ron Grantski, the longtime companion of the victim's mother, Sharon Rocha, on Monday told Oregon legislators they should pass a law creating separate charges for killing a pregnant woman and her unborn child. The legislation is similar to a federal law President Bush signed in April with Rocha at his side. California already has such a law.
Grantski, who lived in Eugene in his youth, read a letter of support he and Rocha received from a Portland resident. "I told them, 'The people of your state want this law,'" he said.
He has personal reasons as well. His adult son, Darrin, lives in Salem.
"I said, 'Someday he may get married and have a little one,'" Grantski said, "'and I want to make sure that life is protected.'"
Previous commitments kept Rocha in Modesto, he said.
Grantski and Rocha have received thousands of letters and hundreds of thousands of e-mails from throughout the United States, many from people who support their lobbying efforts, he said. Rocha plans to testify soon at the Texas Capitol, he said, adding that both will accommodate as many requests as possible from other states.
Saying he supports abortion rights, Grantski dismisses the notion that such fetal protection laws could erode abortion rights. Oregon's legislation would exempt abortion.
"It should be easy to see that this has nothing to do with abortion," Grantski said. "This is strictly malice aforethought, trying to murder a pregnant woman and kill her baby."
Grantski said reliving the ordeal of Peterson's disappearance and death and her husband's lengthy trial caused him to become emotional Monday after he testified before lawmakers. But he would and will do it again, he said, because "I think this is important.
"When you're fighting for something you believe in," he said, "there's nothing scary about that."
Friday's hearing is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. in San Mateo County Superior Court in Redwood City. A judge moved the trial there because of pervasive publicity in Modesto.
Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at 578-2390 or firstname.lastname@example.org.