Evidence Scott Peterson's defense team allegedly gathered about Laci Peterson's "real killers" is scheduled to be presented Friday to a judge behind closed doors.
"We have information that could possibly affect the arrest of other suspects who are still out there," Matt Dalton, one of Scott Peterson's defense lawyers, said during a Tuesday hearing in Stanislaus County Su- perior Court.
Neither Peterson nor his lead attorney, Mark Geragos, attended the hearing. Nor did Scott or Laci Peterson's families.
The hearing was another in a series to address possible public release of search warrants, the arrest warrant affidavit and autopsy reports in the double-murder case.
Tuesday, the hearing was before Judge Roger M. Beauchesne, who has jurisdiction over eight of the search warrants. Dalton said releasing warrant details to the media "could affect the possible apprehension of the real killers in this case."
Beauchesne agreed to hear what Geragos and Dalton have to say and set a hearing in his chamber for 1:30 p.m. Friday. He did not rule in a dispute over whether prosecutors would be allowed to sit in.
Defense and prosecution lawyers argued to keep the eight warrants sealed. Both sides have said intense media scrutiny could sway potential jurors and hurt Peterson's chances at a fair trial.
Also, keeping details secret has helped investigators screen unhelpful tips, because they know details no one else has access to, Senior Deputy District Attorney Dave Harris said. He called that control "a crucial tool" to help authorities build a "bulletproof" case that would withstand an appeal to a possible conviction.
Arguing for open proceedings
The Bee's lawyer, Charity Kenyon -- who is representing several other newspapers and TV stations as well -- has said that open proceedings are a mainstay of the legal system.
She noted that prosecutors on Friday reversed an earlier stance on keeping secret another key area of evidence: autopsy reports on both bodies. The change stemmed from leaks to media that prosecutors say are favorable to Peterson's defense.
Beauchesne asked attorneys, "Should I base my decision on leaks and articles in newspapers?" He also asked if he should consider rumors that the defense team might suggest that a satanic cult killed Laci Peterson.
Any information that is not likely to alert another suspect, if there is any, should be kept under wraps, Kenyon agreed. But all other information should be released, she said.
Because court documents such as warrants sought by The Bee normally are shared with the public, Beauchesne asked if keeping them under wraps in this case sets a "bad precedent."
Harris replied that the Peterson case is "a different breed" because of the near-constant crush of media attention.
"I disagree that the media (are) the best safeguard of this information," Harris said.
As for evidence of Peterson's "real killers," Dalton told Beauchesne that the defense team has "made great progress in our investigation."
Harris noted that defense attorneys were allowed to sit in when prosecutors showed a judge their evidence behind closed doors and suggested that the same courtesy be afforded his office Friday.
After the hearing, Geragos said he had not decided whether to ask the judge to exclude prosecutors.
After hearing the evidence Friday, Beauchesne said he hopes to issue a written ruling by June 12 on whether to keep secret the warrant documents.
Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at 578-2390 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bee staff writer John Coté contributed to this report.