Peterson: Moving Toward Trial

January 31, 2004

Defense seeks delay in Peterson trial

REDWOOD CITY -- Scott Peterson's defense attorney asked Friday to delay the Modesto man's trial because of a conflicting murder trial in Pasadena.

"We ask the court to continue the matter to any day convenient to the court and counsel," attorney Mark Geragos wrote in the three-page document filed Friday in San Mateo County Superior Court.

A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge Thursday ordered the Pasadena trial to begin, despite Geragos' "repeated requests" for a delay to "prevent an unnecessary expenditure of state resources" in the Peterson case, according to the documents.

Superior Court Judge Teri Schwartz gave Geragos Monday off to handle a proceeding in Peterson's case but ordered the Pasadena trial to resume the next day, according to Los Angeles prosecutors.

Peterson's double-murder trial had been scheduled to begin Monday, but attorneys on both sides are proposing that evidentiary hearings in the case be delayed until Feb. 17.

Los Angeles prosecutors estimate the trial of Geragos client Brett Williams will last two weeks. Geragos wrote in the documents that the Williams trial is expected to last 10 days. It was unclear if that included weekends.

Williams is charged with murder and several counts of assault with a deadly weapon in the 2002 shooting death of his former wife, said Deputy District Attorney Kathleen Cady.

Peterson's trial could technically start earlier than Feb. 17 under a defense proposal that calls for juror questionnaires to be distributed first -- marking the beginning of trial, even though jury selection and testimony would be weeks off. Prosecutors oppose the move.

Peterson, 31, is charged with murdering his wife, Laci, and unborn son, Conner. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

A judge ordered his 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.

Television networks and newspapers, including The Bee, filed separate documents Friday opposing the prosecution and defense proposal to keep cameras out of the courtroom during the trial. The newspapers also oppose sealing witness lists and withholding jurors' names.

"This is not a secret star chamber proceeding," wrote Karl Olson, who is representing the newspaper consortium. "The public has a paramount interest in seeing that justice is done by a jury of his peers. That should not be done secretly; it should be done openly."

Bee staff writer John Coté can be reached at 578-2394 or

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