As Scott Peterson turns 31 today, lawyers on both sides of his double-murder case are set to meet with a judge one last time before next week's preliminary hearing.
Today's proceeding is mostly a status hearing for tying up loose ends. The preliminary hearing -- already delayed three times -- is scheduled to start Tuesday in Stanislaus County Superior Court and is expected to last about five days.
At next week's hearing, prosecutors are expected to unveil closely guarded evidence in the case that has garnered national attention.
Laci Peterson was 27 and almost eight months pregnant when she was reported missing Christmas Eve. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Scott Peterson in the deaths of his wife and their son, Conner.
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"The most interesting thing is the witness list," said James Hammer, assistant district attorney of San Francisco, about today's hearing. "That should give an idea of what's coming."
He referred to a judge's instruction to lawyers, requiring them to provide him today with the names of wit-nesses that the lawyers intend to call to testify at the preliminary hearing. Hammer said such lists typically are made public immediately.
Details of the case have been hard to come by since Judge Al Girolami issued a broad gag order in June. The order essentially muzzles attorneys, witnesses, and court and law enforcement officers.
Speculation has swirled regarding whether prosecutors will call Amber Frey. The 28-year-old massage therapist from Fresno was Peterson's girlfriend when his pregnant wife went missing.
Frey has said that she did not know the fertilizer salesman was married when they dated. Police say she cooperated with their investigation.
Phone records show that Frey regularly reported to a police handler immediately after talking with Peterson on the telephone. Authorities secretly taped some of their conversations.
Other potential witnesses include investigators, family members of Scott and Laci Peterson, and people who may have seen either one around the time of her disappearance.
Prosecutors already have said that they will not call a witness whom they hypnotized at one point, but may call her if the case goes to trial. Another witness was hypnotized as well.
Lee Peterson, father of the defendant, said he does not know whether he and his wife, Jackie, will be called to testify next week. Prosecutors issued subpoenas to the Petersons, who termed the action an attempt to silence them from publicly defending their son.
As potential witnesses, they fall under the gag order.
Lee Peterson said a family member planned to visit Scott Peterson today in county jail.
"There is nothing much you can do (for his birthday)," Peterson said. "One of his brothers will visit him (today). Then the family is coming up (from Southern California) for the hearing next week. That's about what it is."
Inmates in Stanislaus County are allowed two visits per week, not counting meetings with lawyers. Inmates get no "bonus visits on their birthdays," said Tom Letras, spokesman for the Sheriff's Department, which runs the jail.
"They get no special privileges whatsoever for birthdays," Letras said.
Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at 578-2390 or firstname.lastname@example.org.