LA trial may put Peterson on hold

01/30/2004 9:00 AM

11/19/2007 2:40 PM

A separate murder trial Scott Peterson's attorney is trying raises the prospect of a delay in Peterson's case, prosecutors said.

The Los Angeles County trial technically began Thursday, but Superior Court Judge Teri Schwartz gave Mark Geragos Monday off to handle a proceeding in Peterson's case, Deputy District Attorney Kathleen Cady said. Geragos is due back in court the next day in Pasadena.

"Basically, the court has ordered him to begin on Tuesday, and that's all we're concerned about," said Lonnie Felker, another Los Angeles County prosecutor.

Geragos could not be reached for comment.

Peterson, a 31-year-old Modesto man, is charged with murdering his wife, Laci, and unborn son, Conner. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

A judge ordered the case moved from Stanislaus County to San Mateo County earlier this month, saying intense media coverage endangered Peterson's ability to get an impartial jury in his wife's hometown.

Felker estimated the trial of Pasadena man Brett Williams will last two weeks. Williams is charged with murder and several counts of assault with a deadly weapon in the 2002 shooting death of his former wife, Cady said.

Trials often run long

Peterson's trial is scheduled to begin Monday, but attorneys on both sides are proposing that hearings be delayed until Feb. 17. That's two weeks from the date set for William's trial to start.

Unforeseen legal issues, extensive cross-examinations and other matters can lengthen a trial, though, legal observers said.

"There are always witnesses who take longer than expected and glitches with presentations and evidence," said Laurie L. Levenson, a law professor and director of Loyola Law School's Center for Ethical Advocacy.

Retired Alameda County Superior Court Judge Alfred A. Delucchi, who was assigned to Peterson's case Tuesday, could take up the scheduling issues Monday. But first on his plate is a ruling on his tenure.

On Jan. 21, California Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald George tapped another retired judge, Contra Costa County's Richard Arnason, for the trial. The original judge, Al Girolami of Stanislaus County Superior Court, said he did not want to follow the case to San Mateo County.

Prosecutors disqualified Arnason the day after his appointment, saying he is prejudiced against their interests. The defense contends that prosecutors failed to challenge Arnason in a timely fashion.

Bee staff writer John Coté can be reached at 578-2394 or jcote@modbee.com.

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