The judge presiding over Scott Peterson’s murder trial ordered Monday that the witness lists and names of potential jurors remain confidential, despite protests by the media.
Alameda Superior Court Judge Alfred A. Delucchi, who said he hoped to begin jury selection in about two weeks, told attorneys at a pretrial hearing that he had “nothing against the press. I have a responsibility here to see that Mr. Peterson gets a fair trial.”
He ruled that the questioning of potential jurors would be open to media coverage under the condition that the potential jurors’ names not be released. He also ordered that the list of witnesses stay sealed.
Karl Olson, who represented the San Francisco Chronicle, the Los Angeles Times and The Associated Press, among other media outlets, argued that “justice works best when exposed to public scrutiny.”
Prosecutors and defense attorneys disagreed.
“The media has taken great steps to place themselves in the middle of this case,” prosecutor David Harris said. “The media has a right to gain information, but they don’t have the right to interfere with a criminal trial.”
Peterson’s attorney, Mark Geragos, said he was concerned that the media would harass witnesses, citing examples of Web sites that publicized witnesses’ names, addresses and telephone numbers.
“The fringe elements ... have turned this into a circus,” he said, adding that two new billboards near freeway entrances close to the courthouse displayed a photograph of Peterson with the question “Man or Monster?”
Peterson, 31, who wore a light gray suit and smiled at family members as he entered the courtroom, said nothing during the 40-minute hearing.
Another hearing was scheduled for Wednesday, at which lawyers will review a motion concerning the global-positioning device that police placed on Peterson’s truck to track his movements before he was arrested last spring.
Peterson could face the death penalty if he is convicted of two counts of murder in the deaths of his wife, Laci Peterson, and the couple’s unborn son. In April, the remains of both washed ashore along San Francisco Bay, two miles from the spot where Scott Peterson said he was fishing on Christmas Eve 2002, when his wife vanished.