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Laci judge grants defense wiretap reports

  |   May 27, 2003 at 6:52 PM
MODESTO, Calif., May 27 (UPI) -- Scott Peterson's lawyers Tuesday were given access to police wiretaps so they can check to see of they contain proof that detectives improperly eavesdropped on conversations between the suspected killer and his attorney.

Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Al Girolami granted a motion by Peterson's defense team that could provide grounds for dismissal of the charges if it is found that police listened in on privileged attorney-client discussions prior to Peterson's arrest on charges he murdered his pregnant wife, Laci.

"Once we've seen exactly what was taped, we'll file the appropriate motions," defense attorney Mark Geragos told reporters outside the Modesto courthouse. "Until we see what's there, we really don't know what we'll do."

Geragos did not elaborate on what he hoped to find on the tapes in question; however they offer Peterson and his defense team the tantalizing possibility of having the capital murder charges thrown out on a technicality.

California wiretap laws forbid police and prosecutors from listening in on conversations between attorneys and their clients. Once investigators determine that a subject is speaking to a lawyer, they are obliged to shut off the tape for the duration of the call.

Prior to Peterson's arrest last month, Modesto police intercepted 69 of his phone contacts with his lawyer at the time, Kirk McAllister.

Police have stated in court records that they followed proper procedure during Peterson's conversations with McAllister, who is now part of Geragos' defense team and who has expressed outrage at the wiretaps.

Judge Girolami will hear any defense motions on the wiretaps at a June 6 pre-trial hearing.

Girolami also on Tuesday scheduled a preliminary hearing on July 16 to determine if there is enough evidence to bind Peterson over for trial on two counts of murder. He also declined to release autopsy results as well as search warrant affidavits and their returns to the media that would most likely provide details of the evidence against Peterson.

Peterson, 30, stands accused of murdering Laci on Christmas Eve and sinking her body to the bottom of San Francisco Bay utilizing concrete anchors presumably to keep her body from rising to the top. In the process of allegedly murdering his wife, Peterson is also accused of causing the death of the couple's unborn child.

State law allows for a murder prosecution if a defendant is aware his actions will cause the death of a viable fetus. The child was due on Feb. 10. If convicted of both deaths, Peterson would be eligible for the death penalty.

Geragos has adamantly maintained in his stump statements to the press that his client is innocent and has publicly solicited witnesses who will lead him to the actual killer. The defense has recently floated the possibility that a satanic cult in the area might have targeted the pregnant woman for some bloody ritual.

Geragos said Tuesday that his investigators had "worked with the police" and passed on their tips. He declined during the brief news conference to elaborate on the grounds that publicity might compromise the investigation or possibly place potential witnesses in danger.

"I don't want to get into a position where we either have evidence destroyed or we have perpetrators take off," he said.

(Reported by Hil Anderson in Los Angeles)

Topics: Mark Geragos
© 2003 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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