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Peterson's Lawyer to Get Records of Calls

May 28, 2003|From Associated Press

MODESTO — The judge overseeing the murder case of Scott Peterson ordered that police records of telephone calls made between Peterson and his lawyer and investigator earlier this year be turned over to his new defense attorney, Mark Geragos.

Police listened to or recorded at least two of the 69 calls between Peterson and Modesto attorney Kirk McAllister as part of widespread monitoring that also taped Peterson's calls with reporters. Police also listened in on a call between Peterson and a private investigator.

Geragos said he expected to receive the police records Tuesday afternoon.

"Once we see exactly what was taped, we'll file the appropriate motions," he said.

Peterson, 30, is accused of killing his pregnant wife, Laci, and unborn son, Conner, on Dec. 23 or 24. Stanislaus County authorities are set to outline their death penalty prosecution against Peterson during a three-day preliminary hearing beginning July 15.

Peterson, arrested April 18, maintains his innocence, saying he last saw his wife when he left for a Christmas Eve fishing trip.

Talks between attorneys and clients are considered privileged conversations and investigators are not supposed to listen.

John Goold, a chief deputy district attorney for Stanislaus County, told reporters Tuesday that prosecutors have not seen or heard anything from the Peterson-McAllister calls monitored by police. He said that when prosecutors realized police had listened in or recorded some calls, they ordered them sealed.

A May 23 court filing by Stanislaus County prosecutors reported that police briefly monitored two of Peterson's calls to McAllister on Jan. 14 and 15, but maintained they overhead nothing of substance.

The court filing expressed similar sentiment about a Jan. 29 call that was briefly monitored between Peterson and Modesto private investigator Gary Ermoian. At no time, the district attorney's office argued, did prosecutors later listen in or use the conversations in their probe.

"Our requirement is to not listen in on privileged phone calls," Goold said.

Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Al Girolami also said Tuesday that he would probably keep other court documents sought by reporters sealed until the July 15 hearing.

In a pretrial hearing Tuesday, the judge said he was also considering a gag order on lawyers in the case to prevent leaks fueling news stories.

Girolami said he would rule this week whether to unseal police reports, arrest warrants and autopsy results of Laci Peterson and her unborn son.

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