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Gag Order Issued in Peterson Case; Warrants to Be Unsealed

June 13, 2003|From Associated Press

MODESTO — The judge in the Laci Peterson murder case issued a gag order Thursday, barring lawyers, witnesses and police officers from discussing the case.

Judge Al Girolami said he had considered less restrictive options, but thought the so-called protective order was the only way to stop evidence leaks from derailing Scott Peterson's right to a fair trial.

The ruling came on the same day that another judge in Stanislaus County Superior Court ordered search warrants in the case unsealed, but postponed their release until July.

Girolami, who had ordered the sealing of autopsy results that were later leaked to reporters, said that without a gag order, "all the statements by the witnesses, all of the rumors and gossip would be rehashed shortly before trial, thereby making it extremely difficult to select a fair and impartial jury."

Anyone who violates the order would face contempt charges.

The order does not apply to requests for witnesses to come forward with evidence.

The judge cited the sweep of news coverage, discussing some of the talk show coverage of the killings. He pointed out that defense lawyer Mark Geragos had been a regular commentator before being retained by Scott Peterson's parents.

The order follows a hearing last week in which prosecutors asked for a limited gag order, and Geragos said such a ruling would harm his ability to defend his client.

Earlier, Judge Roger Beauchesne said in a three-page ruling that there was no reason to keep eight search warrants and related police reports sealed because Peterson has been arrested and charged with the murders of his wife and son.

The search warrants, which are usually made public 11 days after they are served, are expected to contain evidence compiled in the case and theories pursued by investigators.

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