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Judge will not exclude media from Peterson hearing

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Judge will not exclude media from Peterson hearing

  • A preliminary hearing to determine whether murder suspect Scott Peterson’s case should go to trial will be open to the public.

Aug. 14, 2003 — California Superior Court Judge Al Girolami said today in Modesto that he would not close to the public a preliminary hearing in the murder trial of Scott Peterson.

Peterson’s defense team filed a motion on July 22 that asked the judge to close the preliminary hearing to the public. His lawyers said the intense media attention would jeopardize Peterson’s right to a fair trial. The preliminary hearing is scheduled for Sept. 9.

According to an Associated Press report, news organizations argued that no preliminary hearings in high-profile cases — “including those for O.J. Simpson and actor Robert Blake — have been closed in almost two decades.”

Media attorney Rochelle Wilcox argued that an open hearing “is the only way to assure that what gets to the public is accurate,” according to AP.

Girolami said he would take several days to rule on a prosecution request to ban cameras from the courtroom during the hearing. He also will decide later on whether one of Peterson’s attorneys violated a gag order after his comments were published in the Modesto Bee.

The gag order, issued June 12, prohibits attorneys, law enforcement officials, and others involved in the case from speaking publicly about most aspects of the trial.

Peterson was arrested in April after the remains of his wife, Laci, and their unborn son were found on a San Francisco Bay beach. Peterson has pleaded not guilty to two counts of murder and could face the death penalty if convicted.

(Peterson v. Superior Court; Media counsel: Rochelle Wilcox, Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, Los Angeles) JL

© 2003 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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