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Autopsy Results on Laci Peterson, Son to Remain Sealed, Judge Rules

The jurist declines to issue a gag order on attorneys and denies a bid by reporters to hear wiretaps of calls they made to Scott Peterson.

June 07, 2003|From Associated Press

Results of the autopsies on Laci Peterson and her son will remain sealed, Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Al Girolami ruled in Modesto Friday.

Girolami also rejected requests by reporters to listen to wiretaps of phone calls they made to Scott Peterson, and declined to issue a gag order on lawyers in the case.

Prosecutors have said they support some form of a gag order, but defense attorney Mark Geragos said in court papers that he opposes any effort to curtail discussions about the case.

Prosecutors also made a request last week to unseal the autopsy after extensive news leaks on the results. The prosecution team argued in a motion that the leaks were prejudicial toward the defense case.

Among the details reported by MSNBC and confirmed by an Associated Press source close to the case on condition of anonymity was that there were 1 1/2 loops of plastic around the boy's neck and a significant cut on his body. Analysts said the results could be used to bolster a defense argument that Laci Peterson was kidnapped by a satanic cult.

Attorneys representing 22 reporters had asked to review the tapes of their calls to Peterson so they could determine if they might be barred from becoming evidence. The lawyers said those conversations were protected under the California Shield Law, which protects reporters from turning over unpublished work. They claimed the wiretaps are the same as journalists' notes.

But Girolami said he did not think journalists were entitled to any privilege protecting their phone calls. He did, however, delay for 10 days the release of the tapes so reporters could appeal the ruling.

Girolami also set a June 26 date to rule on defense motions regarding wiretaps of Scott Peterson's calls. His lawyers want the judge to dismiss the prosecutors assigned to the case, and toss out the results of two wiretaps that monitored thousands of his calls after the disappearance of his pregnant wife.

During the court-approved wiretaps, the first of which began two weeks after Laci Peterson vanished, when investigators thought they had exhausted normal evidence-gathering techniques, police logged 3,858 calls made to her husband, according to court papers. Some of those conversations will be questioned by defense lawyers, who claim police eavesdropped on protected conversations between Scott Peterson and his lawyer.

Peterson, 30, has pleaded innocent to two counts of murder for allegedly killing his wife and their son. Laci Peterson, 27, a part-time teacher, was eight months pregnant when she disappeared just before Christmas.

Prosecutors said in papers filed Wednesday in Stanislaus County Superior Court that detectives acted in good faith during the wiretaps.

A judge approved the wiretap of Scott Peterson's phone Jan. 10 after prosecutors showed there was probable cause to believe a crime had been committed, and that the wiretap would help them gather evidence they had not been able to find through other means. They discontinued the surveillance Feb. 4 after it no longer produced results.

A second wiretap was started April 15 after the remains of a woman and a baby, later proven to be Laci Peterson and her son, washed ashore in San Francisco Bay near where Scott Peterson said he was fishing the day his wife vanished. "It's not unusual to show a change in circumstance and put a wiretap back up," said John Goold, a chief deputy prosecutor.

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