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Peterson lawyers seek records on earlier murder

From Rusty Dornin
CNN

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Laci Peterson was nearly eight months pregnant when she was murdered.

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• Criminal complaint: People v. Scott Peterson  (FindLaw, PDF)external link
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MODESTO, California (CNN) -- San Francisco's city attorney doesn't want to give Scott Peterson's defense team investigative records in the death of a pregnant woman whose body was found last year in the San Francisco Bay.

The attorney filed a motion Thursday with Judge Al Girolami to quash a May 29 subpoena served to produce the records in the unsolved Evelyn Hernandez case.

Peterson is charged with murdering his pregnant wife, Laci, and their unborn son. Both their bodies washed ashore in San Francisco Bay.

The subpoena from the Peterson defense team was approved by Superior Court Judge Roger Beauchesne, who ordered all documents in the case turned over to the Peterson defense by June 6.

Peterson's lawyers say the Hernandez case could contain information that could help identify what they call the "actual perpetrators" in the Peterson slayings. The evidence will exonerate their client, the team argues.

The body of Evelyn Hernandez, 24, was found July 24, 2002, in the water near the Bay Bridge in downtown San Francisco.

According to the court documents filed by City Attorney Dennis Herrera, Hernandez had been missing for three months before her body was found, and she was identified through DNA testing. She was eight months pregnant when she disappeared.

Hernandez's 5-year-old son disappeared at the same time and has never been found, the documents said. Police questioned Hernandez's boyfriend, but he was never officially labeled a suspect.

Herrera said in the documents the case is still "open and active" and said revealing information in the file might "result in the perpetrator of the crime avoiding detection."

The San Francisco Police Department has refused to comply with the subpoena.

"I do not believe that there is any information in the file that could link the death of Ms. Hernandez with the death of Laci Peterson," said Inspector Holly Pera of the San Francisco Police Department in a declaration included in the motion.

Peterson attorney Kirk McAllister said in the subpoena that time is of the essence in "identifying the actual perpetrators in the killing of Laci Peterson and her unborn son, lest critical evidence be destroyed waiting for the statutory time limit."

"It is further believed that the actual perpetrators are now ignorant that the defense investigation is aware of their involvement in this crime, but they may become aware of this fact and attempt to conceal or destroy evidence critical to the case," McAllister said in the subpoena.

Laci Peterson was reported missing by her husband December 24. Her body and that of the fetus washed on shore in April near Richmond, California, a few miles from where Peterson said he had been fishing the day she disappeared.

Richmond is across the bay and nearly 20 miles away by car from where Hernandez's body was found.

In another filing in court Thursday, the prosecution, defense and judge reached a rare agreement in the case.

Wednesday's revelation of 176 recently discovered wiretapped phone calls forced a delay in the deadline for all wiretap evidence to be turned over to the defense and prosecution. (More Peterson wiretap calls found)

In a joint motion signed by Deputy District Attorney Rick Distaso and defense attorney Mark Geragos, the two sides asked Girolami to continue the matter until the issue could be discussed in court at the next hearing June 26. The judge agreed.

The wiretaps have been a major point of contention in the case. Defense attorneys have accused prosecutors of improprieties in their handling of the wiretaps, including violations of attorney-client privilege for listening to calls between Peterson and his lawyer.


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