Judge rejects prosecution request to unseal Peterson autopsy results
June 8, 2003
MODESTO, Calif. — A judge has refused to unseal the autopsy results for Laci Peterson and her unborn son, a week after ordering that news leaks about the report should stop.
Superior Court Judge Al Girolami ruled Friday that the autopsy results would remain sealed, and declined to issue a gag order on the lawyers involved.
After extensive details of the autopsy results were reported, prosecutors had asked that they be unsealed.
Peterson’s husband, Scott Peterson, 30, has pleaded innocent to two counts of murder for allegedly killing his pregnant wife and their unborn child, whose bodies were found in mid-April on the shore of San Francisco Bay.
Laci Peterson, 27, disappeared just before Christmas. Authorities Friday issued a death certificate listing her death as a homicide but its cause as undetermined.
The judge said releasing the autopsy reports could hamper the investigation and prejudice public opinion before Scott Peterson’s trial.
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A source close to the case told the Associated Press on condition of anonymity that autopsy details revealed 1Y loops of plastic around the fetus’ neck and a significant cut on its body. Analysts said the autopsy results could be used to bolster a defense argument that Peterson was kidnapped by a satanic cult.
Prosecutors have said they would support a gag order, while defense attorney Mark Geragos has opposed any effort to curtail discussions about the case.
Girolami on Friday also set a June 26 date to rule on defense motions regarding wiretaps of Scott Peterson’s phone calls.
Scott Peterson’s lawyers want the judge to toss out the results of two court-approved wiretaps that monitored thousands of his calls after his wife’s disappearance.
During the wiretaps, the first of which began two weeks after Laci Peterson vanished, police logged 3,858 phone calls made to Scott Peterson, according to court papers.
Defense lawyers claim police eavesdropped on protected conversations between Scott Peterson and his attorney.
A judge approved the wiretap of Peterson’s phone Jan. 10. The surveillance was discontinued Feb. 4 after it no longer produced results. A second wiretap was started April 15 after the remains washed ashore.
The judge on Friday also rejected requests by 22 reporters to listen to wiretaps of phone calls they had made to Scott Peterson.
Lawyers for the reporters said the calls could be considered unpublished work, which reporters are not required to turn over.
The judge delayed the release of the tapes for 10 days so reporters could appeal. Lawyers for the journalists didn’t say whether they would appeal.
Meanwhile, a lawyer for Scott Peterson’s former girlfriend criticized efforts to sell nude photos of her client.
“She did the right thing and this is the price she has to pay,” said Gloria Allred, a lawyer for Amber Frey.
Frey, 29, has said Peterson told her he was single when they began dating last year. She contacted police after news stories reported that he was married and his wife was missing.
A photo broker for men’s magazines has said he plans to sell 27 pictures of Frey, most nude, for $500,000.
In another development Friday, Contra Costa County authorities issued a death certificate for Laci Peterson, indicating the cause of her death remains undetermined. However, the document listed the manner of her death as a homicide. A certificate of fetal death for the Petersons’ unborn son listed no information for the cause or manner of death.