Scott Peterson's trial date is expected to be set Wednesday after he is formally arraigned on charges he murdered his wife and unborn son.
But whatever date is picked could be pushed back for any of a number of reasons, including hearings on moving the trial to another county because of massive publicity.
Peterson, 31, faces his second arraignment in the case after Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Al Girolami last month upheld the charges following a 12-day preliminary hearing.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for the former fertilizer salesman accused of murdering his wife, Laci, and their unborn son, Conner.
Girolami is likely also to consider other issues Wednesday, including:
Peterson's attorneys, Mark Geragos and Kirk McAllister, filed a motion last week asking for the cash and the truck to be released to Peterson or his "designated representative."
"It's an expensive task for the family to fund this," Geragos said in Stanislaus County Superior Court.
Investigators seized Peterson's 2002 Ford pickup Dec. 27 while they searched his Covena Avenue home.
They found $15,000 cash with him when he was arrested April 18 north of San Diego driving a used Mercedes he had recently purchased.
Payments called a hardship
According to the defense motion, Peterson has been making $643.31 monthly payments on the pickup, and those payments, along with the seized cash, constitute a "severe and undue financial hardship to Mr. Peterson."
Prosecutor Rick Distaso said he intends to introduce the items as evidence at trial and is opposed to handing them over.
Physical items have "more impact" on jurors than photographs, Chief Deputy District Attorney John Goold said.
The defense motion called it "absurd" to offer the actual items as evidence.
"The property is no longer relevant or necessary to any investigation or action of the prosecution," Geragos wrote.
Prosecutors are expected to file a response this week.
Girolami will also take up Wednesday a defense request that he revisit the gag order he imposed in June.
It is unclear what prosecutors' current position is on the gag order, which extends from attorneys to court employees connected to the case.
The Bee and a consortium of newspapers also are asking that the gag order end, arguing that the order is a restraint on free speech that can result in the perpetuation of error or misunderstanding about information.
That request also opposes sealing six items of evidence submitted from the defense and the prosecution during the preliminary.
Some or all of those items might be autopsy photos, which prosecutors and the defense said should not be made public.
The Bee and other papers also are asking Girolami to unseal a range of normally public documents that were sealed early on in the case, including search and arrest warrant documents and autopsy reports.
"Now that the prosecution has publicly made the case for trial of Scott Peterson, there is no basis for continuing keeping from the public the affidavits making the case for the multiple searches and eventual arrest of Mr. Peterson," wrote Charity Kenyon, an attorney representing The Bee.
Leaks bleed secrecy push
In sealing the documents, Girolami said releasing them could hamper the investigation, and that the case should be argued in the courtroom, not the media.
Both the prosecution and defense supported the original sealing.
Prosecutors did an about-face in May and asked that the autopsy reports be unsealed after portions of Conner Peterson's autopsy report favorable to the defense were leaked to the media.
Girolami also is set to hash out a schedule for hearing a range of defense motions seeking to bar evidence at trial.
The defense also is asking for sanctions against the district attorney's office after wiretaps intercepted calls between Peterson and McAllister and a private investigator working for the defense.
Prosecutors maintain officers inadvertently monitored brief portions of three calls between Peterson and his defense team.
Girolami might decide to hear some of the motions at trial rather than hold separate hearings, legal observers said.
The defense also has indicated that it will file a motion seeking to have Peterson's trial moved, arguing pretrial publicity makes it impossible to seat 12 fair and impartial jurors in Stanislaus County.
Typically in such motions, the defense lays out the results of surveys conducted to determine what percentage of a given population has made judgments about a case.
Prosecutors have retained a jury selection expert who will examine any defense findings and possibly conduct alternate surveys, Goold said.
If the prosecution analysis shows it's possible for Peterson to get a fair trial in Modesto, Goold said his office will push to keep the case in Stanislaus County.
"We'd like to have the case here if it can be tried here," Goold said
Bee staff writer John Coté can be reached at 578-2394 or firstname.lastname@example.org.