MODESTO, CALIF. A judge ruled Thursday that accused murderer Scott Peterson cannot get a fair trial in his dead wife's hometown and ordered the case moved out of the county.
Judge Al Girolami said extensive news coverage of the case, including 8,000 articles published worldwide and more than 150 stories in the local newspaper alone, swayed him to agree with the defense that the trial should not be held in Modesto. He did not immediately say where the trial would be held.
"A change of venue is necessary to protect the integrity of the proceeding," Girolami said.
The trial was scheduled for Jan. 26 in Modesto but will most likely be postponed now that the location has been changed.
Peterson, a 31-year-old fertilizer salesman, is charged with two counts of murder and faces the death penalty in the killings of his wife and unborn son, whose bodies washed ashore in San Francisco Bay several months after Laci Peterson's Christmas Eve 2002 disappearance. Peterson denies killing his wife and says he was fishing the day she disappeared.
Prosecutors argued that news coverage of the case is so widespread that moving the trial would be pointless.
But defense lawyer Mark Geragos said in court papers that Peterson had been demonized and that the prosecution's argument "can be boiled down to the old adage, 'Sure we can give him a fair trial, then we will take him out and hang him."'