MODESTO -- Among the scores of issues raised in a 470-page appeal, Scott Peterson's attorney contends that pretrial publicity prevented Peterson from getting a fair trial.
Cliff Gardner's lengthy document claims the trial judge, the late Alfred Delucchi, erred by failing to grant a change of venue, among other things.
And he cites that at some point during the proceedings, prosecutors suggested the trial had "surpassed the Manson case
and the O.J. Simpson case," attorney Gardner wrote in the document released Thursday.
The two issues are linked, and we'll get to that in a moment.
First, I can't imagine anyone including Gardner actually believing for a moment that Scott Peterson is more well-known than O.J. Simpson or even Manson.
Last I looked, Peterson never won a Heisman Trophy at USC, set NFL rushing records, jumped over hurdles in an airport in a rent-a-car commercial or starred in the "Naked Gun" flicks before being tried for killing his wife.
And the Manson case mesmerized the nation in the late 1960s, after he'd instructed members of the cult he led to murder actress Sharon Tate and two others.
Manson's case became a movie "Helter Skelter" that was actually decent, unlike the made-for-TV tripe about the Peterson case.
Manson escaped the death penalty in 1972, when the California Supreme Court abolished it and commuted death sentences to life imprisonment. He's been denied parole 12 times, most recently in April.
Which brings us to Peterson, whose timing might be as good as Manson's. In November, voters can decide whether to keep or eliminate the death penalty in this state.
Until his pregnant wife, Laci, disappeared on Christmas Eve 2002, Peterson was a nondescript fertilizer salesman a total unknown who played golf and, as investigators later learned from his girlfriend, cheated on his spouse.
Hence, Gardner's contention that extensive media coverage not only turned Peterson into a household name but also convicted him in the court of public opinion. That, in turn, made seating an unbiased jury virtually impossible.
This much is indisputable:
When Manson Family members killed in the late 1960s, media coverage consisted of print (newspapers and magazines), radio and the three major TV networks (NBC, CBS and ABC). Cable TV didn't exist. CNN didn't come along until 1980.
By the time Simpson's murder trial began in 1994, CNN was well-established as the only cable news entity.
It used criminal defense experts Greta Van Susteren and Roger Cossack to assess the trial's events each day, and in essence created the blueprint for what later developed with the explosion of cable network shows by the early 2000s.
After Peterson's arrest in the spring of 2003, Fox News, CourtTV and MSNBC filled their schedules with programming related to the case. Shows with hosts Nancy Grace, Dan Abrams and Anderson Cooper built audiences, and Grace made no secret that she believed Peterson guilty.
Most online sites that reported or blogged about the case allowed reader comments, and it didn't take long say, after Peterson's appearance with Diane Sawyer on "Good Morning America" in which he was caught in several lies and referred to then-missing Laci in the past tense to convince some people of his guilt.
That interview aired in January 2003, nearly three months before the remains of Laci and her unborn son, Conner, washed up along the shores of San Francisco Bay about a mile from the Richmond marina.
So there is no doubt the case drew extensive publicity from the get-go. But did Judge Delucchi err by refusing to move it a second time?
Ruth Jones, a professor of criminal law at the McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, said a judge's discretion carries great weight in appellate decisions.
Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Al Girolami (now retired) exercised his discretion when the case was here.
"He issued a gag order and moved the trial (to Redwood City)," Jones said. "He used the resources available to him the traditional safeguards."
When Delucchi took over, he exercised his discretion by refusing to move the case again, this time to Los Angeles at defense attorney Mark Geragos' behest.
Geragos lives in Southern California, as does Peterson's family.
Geragos is a so-called celebrity attorney adept at using the media to his advantage. By hiring him, Peterson's family drew even more attention to the case.
And because the case went national, it's reasonable to suggest that anybody anywhere who possessed a TV or Internet connection had at least heard of Scott Peterson.
By that standard, a judge could reasonably presume that jurors in San Mateo County were as informed, uninformed, biased or unbiased as residents anywhere other than in Stanislaus County, where the case originated.
"Did the case move far enough?" Jones said. "Even that argument is very, very difficult to make because it's a discretionary decision by the judge. I'm not sure how legally relevant it can be to move a case again if it's a national story.
"It's fair to say there was a presumption of guilt in the media. But it's difficult to prove the court (was) insufficient."
Jeff Jardine's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in Local News. He can be reached at email@example.com, @jeffjardine57 on Twitter or at (209) 578-2383.