MODESTO, Calif. -- A judge ruled yesterday that Scott Peterson, who is accused of murdering his pregnant wife, cannot get a fair jury in his wife's hometown and ordered the case moved out of Stanislaus County. Prosecutors argued that news coverage of the case, which captured the nation's attention after Laci Peterson disappeared on Dec. 24, 2002, is so widespread that moving the trial would be pointless.
Defense lawyer Mark Geragos said in court papers that Peterson has been demonized and that the prosecution's argument "can be boiled down to the old adage, `Sure we can give him a fair trial, then we will take him out and hang him.' "
Peterson, 31, is charged with two counts of murder in the killings of his wife and unborn son, whose bodies washed ashore from San Francisco Bay several months after Laci Peterson's disappearance.
The trial is scheduled for Jan. 26, but will most likely be postponed now that there is a change in location. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Judge Al Girolami had several options: He could have kept the case in Modesto; ordered it moved out of the county; or selected a jury in another county and bused them to the Stanislaus County courthouse each day of the trial.
Geragos said surveys indicated there was less bias against Peterson in other California counties.