IMAGE: Scott Peterson file photo
Al Golub-Pool  /  Getty Images
Scott Peterson, left, smiles at defense attorney Mark Geragos during a Dec. 12 hearing in Stanislaus County Superior Court.
updated 1/8/2004 1:49:03 PM ET 2004-01-08T18:49:03

A judge ruled Thursday that accused murderer Scott Peterson can’t get a fair jury in his dead 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 a pregnant Laci Peterson disappeared on Christmas Eve 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 in San Francisco Bay several months after Laci Peterson’s disappearance.The trial is scheduled Jan. 26, but will most likely be postponed now that there’s a change in location. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.Judge Al Girolami had several options: He could keep the case in Modesto; order it moved out of the county; or select a jury in another county and bus them to the Stanislaus County courthouse each day of the trial.Geragos said surveys showed there was less bias against Peterson in Los Angeles, Sacramento, Alameda and Santa Clara counties.Examples of hostility
He cited numerous examples of the hostility Scott Peterson has faced since he was arrested in April after his wife and her fetus washed ashore near where he said he was fishing the day she disappeared.When Peterson was brought in for booking, a crowd of more than 100 people waited outside the jail, some shouting “murderer.” Peterson’s house was vandalized twice. And T-shirts have been sold with Peterson’s likeness and the motto: “Modesto, a killer place to live.”“The depth of pretrial animosity ... is obvious to any breathing human being in Stanislaus County,” Geragos wrote.When Laci Peterson vanished, thousands of people fanned out across Central California to search for her. More than 3,000 showed up for her memorial service, and there has been talk of naming a park for her and the boy the couple planned to name “Conner.”

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