Stanislaus County Public Defender Tim Bazar said he expects Los Angeles attorney Mark Geragos to step in today to defend Scott Peterson, who is charged with murdering his wife and unborn son.
"I do anticipate that he is going to come in on the case,"
Bazar said Thursday afternoon. "But I've got to hear it from the judge."
Peterson, 30, is charged with two counts of murder in the deaths of his wife, Laci, and their unborn son, Conner.
Superior Court Judge Nancy Ashley appointed the public defender to the case last week. A hearing scheduled for 8:30 a.m. today before Judge Al Girolami is designated for substitution of counsel.
If Geragos steps in, the public defender's office would turn over the case completely
"It's just not appropriate for a county agency to take a secondary role," Bazar said. "We wouldn't be in a position to actually control the course of the case."
Bazar said his office has canceled one contract extended to a potential expert, and ceased efforts to retain other experts and investigators.
"I don't think it'd be prudent to spend county money on a case where it appears we would be off the case in a matter of hours," Bazar said.
Geragos said Wednesday on the CNN program "Larry King Live" that he would make a decision on the case Thursday. But Geragos did not return calls Thursday.
In Modesto on Tuesday, Geragos met with Peterson and representatives of the public defender's office.
If Geragos takes the case, that would save the county the substantial costs involved in mounting a capital murder defense.
Those costs would be at least "six figures" and could top $1 million, said Jim Larsen, assistant public defender for San Joaquin County.
Stanislaus County still will pay for Peterson's prosecution, although state Sen. Jeff Denham, R-Salinas, introduced legislation under which the state could pay for all the county and city of Modesto costs in connection with the prosecution.
Peterson pleaded not guilty last week.
His parents, Lee and Jackie Peterson, have defended their son and said Modesto police botched the case.
Modesto attorney Kirk McAllister, who represented Peterson before his arrest, said Wednesday night on NBC Television's "Dateline" that he has evidence that Peterson "didn't do it."
Bee staff writer John Coté can be reached at 578-2394 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
* THE PETERSON FILE
MEMORIAL SERVICE -- Although thousands of people are expected to attend the Laci and Conner Peterson memorial service, there are some notable exceptions.
Amber Frey, for one, does not plan to attend, according to her father, Ron Frey.
Amber Frey, 28, is the Fresno-area woman who went before the media Jan. 24 to say that she had had
a romantic relationship with Scott Peterson in November and December. Peterson later acknowledged the affair.
"Amber was invited to go and considered going, but decided not to attend," her father said Thursday in Fresno. "She evaluated the amount of media attention she would attract. She has total respect for the Rocha family and didn't want to be a distraction to the memories of Laci and Conner."
Wednesday night, Scott Peterson's mother, Jackie Peterson, said by telephone from her San Diego County home that no one from Scott's side of the family would be attending the service, to avoid adding to the commotion.
"We will grieve in our own private way," she said.
TODAY -- Scott Peterson is represented by the public defender's office, but a judge is scheduled to consider a change. A hearing on the matter is set for 8:30 a.m. in Stanislaus County Superior Court.