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Ruling Keeps Autopsy Sealed

Prosecutors seek release of reports on the deaths of Laci Peterson and her son. Release could hamper ongoing probe, judge says.

May 31, 2003|From Associated Press

MODESTO — A Stanislaus County Superior Court judge ruled Friday that an autopsy report on the deaths of Laci Peterson and her son should remain sealed, along with other search warrant and arrest records.

Judge Al Girolami, in a four-page ruling, said releasing the information could hamper a continuing investigation into the murder case and prejudice public opinion before a trial begins.

But the ruling may not be final. The judge is scheduled to hear more arguments June 6 from Stanislaus County prosecutors who want to unseal the autopsy reports.

Prosecutors preparing a murder case against Peterson's husband, Scott Peterson, filed a motion Thursday seeking public release of the autopsy reports. They argued that media leaks of the reports are prejudicing the case toward the defense.

Girolami's announcement Friday reaffirmed an earlier ruling to keep the reports sealed. He also ordered that leaks of sealed information stop. The judge ordered that "all of these documents now in the possession of the prosecution and defense shall not be released, conveyed or disclosed to anyone out of their respective trial teams without further order of the court."

Girolami has also hinted at a gag order to stop the prosecution and defense teams from talking to the media about the case.

Several media outlets have released details of the Contra Costa County coroner's report on Laci Peterson and her son, whom the couple had planned to name Conner.

A spokeswoman for Laci Peterson's family members said Thursday that they had been "devastated" at hearing autopsy reports without warning on television.

Meanwhile, Friday, friends and relatives of Laci Peterson removed several personal articles from the single-story Modesto home where she and Scott Peterson lived. Peterson's defense lawyer, Mark Geragos, said he had arranged earlier this week for family members to go into the house to remove items.

But the group, which included Laci Peterson's brother, Brent Rocha, set off the home's alarm when it arrived without notice.

The group dispersed quickly when media crews arrived, driving off with a rocking chair and several other items.

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