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Peterson Trial: Move It Again?

Scott Peterson and the scales of justice over a faded photo of Laci Peterson
AP / CBS
Moving Scott Peterson's double-murder trial would be pointless because juror bias could be found anywhere in California, prosecutors said.

Defense attorney Mark Geragos wants the case moved to Los Angeles, where he practices law and where he says media saturation has not been so intense. Geragos claims an impartial jury cannot be seated in Northern California, where potential panelists are intimately involved in the case.

He was set to argue for a change of venue Tuesday. The case was moved from Modesto after a judge there found an impartial jury could not be seated in Peterson's hometown. Peterson could face the death penalty or life without parole if convicted of killing his pregnant wife, Laci, and her fetus.

In a motion filed Monday in opposition to the venue change, prosecutors contend the jury pool would be no different in Los Angeles than in Redwood City, where the trial is currently being heard.

"The defendant has failed to prove that jurors in any other county would view this case differently," prosecutors wrote. "The (Charles) Manson case, even more so than this case, involved horrendous crimes, massive publicity, aberrant/outcast defendants, famous/prominent victims ... A change of venue was denied, not because of the size of the venue, but because there was no place to go untainted by the media."

Geragos claims that 45 percent of potential jurors summoned to court for Peterson's trial in San Mateo County have already prejudged his client guilty.

Jury selection in the case is behind schedule. The court has seated just 66 potential panelists out of an initial pool of 1,000. Many have been dismissed for various reasons, including work hardships or opinions that Peterson is guilty.

Judge Alfred A. Delucchi said he wants at least 70 potential jurors before attorneys begin whittling down the final panel to 12 and six alternates.

Out of an additional 252 potential jurors summoned to court Monday, just 56 were selected for individual questioning.

Geragos claims to have exposed at least three so-called stealth jurors, who have lied to get on the jury to convict Peterson. In his motion, he cited that as a reason to change the venue.

A poll performed on behalf of the prosecution by Edde Ebbesen, a professor of psychology at University of California, San Diego, found that 98 percent of those surveyed in Los Angeles had heard about the case compared to 96 percent in San Mateo County, according to the filing.

"If the aim of a change of venue from Northern to Southern California were to find more potential jurors who had not heard about the case, these data suggest that this goal cannot be obtained," Ebbesen wrote in a declaration.

Prosecutors also took issue with Geragos' request for additional challenges to dismiss unwanted jurors.

Each side has 26 chances to dismiss a juror without explanation.

Geragos is seeking extra peremptory challenges - 10 more than prosecutors.

"The defendant's request for additional peremptories, coupled with the denial of the same to the People, accounts to a request for a deck stacked in his favor," prosecutors contend.

Geragos remained adamant that the case must be moved.

"This case must be tried in Los Angeles," Geragos wrote in a filing, claiming such a venue would be a "world away" from the alleged crime scene.

He accused the prosecution of being intent on "keeping this case in a hostile and inappropriate venue."