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Laci's family wants cameras banned

Judge keeps gag order in place but excludes Allred

Scott Peterson
Scott Peterson

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MODESTO, California (CNN) -- Laci Peterson's family has asked a judge to ban cameras from the courtroom in the murder trial of her husband, according to court documents released Thursday.

Stanislaus County District Attorney James Brazelton presented the motion to Judge Al Girolami, asking that cameras be banned from both the preliminary hearings and the trial of Scott Peterson.

Attached to the motion was a letter Laci Peterson's mother, Sharon Rocha, and her stepfather, Ron Grantski.

"We the family of Laci Rocha Peterson are requesting that no cameras be allowed inside the courtroom," the letter said.

"It will be extremely difficult for everyone: her family, her friends, her students, etc., who know and love Laci, to hear and see the evidence and personal facts of her life and death that will be revealed inside the courtroom.

"We ask that you please consider the long-term effects that televising the trial will have on everyone involved, especially everyone close to Laci. Please don't let those memories be destroyed by televising the ugliness of the trial," the letter said.

Scott Peterson, 30, pleaded not guilty to murder charges in the death of his wife and the couple's unborn son. Prosecutors said they would seek the death penalty if he is convicted.

The victims' bodies were found in April on the shores of San Francisco Bay near the marina where Peterson said he had launched his boat on a fishing trip Christmas Eve, the day his wife disappeared. The area is about 80 miles from the Peterson home in Modesto.

Earlier Thursday, a judge ruled that a gag order in the murder trial will remain in place but that it does not apply to Gloria Allred, an attorney for a potential witness.

Defense attorney Mark Geragos filed motions asking Girolami to reconsider his gag order and to hold Allred in contempt of the order.

Allred represents Amber Frey, who has acknowledged having a relationship with Peterson. Allred has given news conferences since the gag order was imposed.

John West, who represented Allred, said the media attention was "akin to a million buffaloes stampeding across the prairie and they want to silence one buffalo named Allred."

Ruling out Geragos' contempt motion, the judge said it was "never the court's intent to include Gloria Allred in the gag order," which applies to potential witnesses, defense and prosecution attorneys and law enforcement officials.

On another motion, Girolami ordered that 176 recently discovered wiretaps of Peterson's telephone calls should be handed over to the defense as part of discovery.

The wiretap recordings turned up on a computer hard drive June 13, and prosecutors revealed their existence five days later when they asked the court to review them for relevance.

Neither prosecuting attorneys nor the police officer who handled the wiretapping listened to the recordings, the prosecution said.

Girolami also ordered the prosecution not to alter the wiretapping equipment in any way "until he has decided whether to allow the defense to examine it with their own expert."

In addition, Girolami agreed with the defense and prosecution to postpone to September 9 a preliminary hearing on the evidence, which had been scheduled for July 16.

The prosecution said it wanted the delay because of problems with witness availability, and Geragos said he needed it because the prosecution had not been forthcoming in providing him with information.

Girolami asked Peterson directly if he agreed to the move, and he replied that it was "not my wish, but yes."

"I think we're forced to because we don't have everything from the prosecution," he said.

After his rulings on the gag order, the judge said a defense motion against District Attorney James Brazelton for allegedly defying the gag order could have some merit. Geragos sought to hold Brazelton in contempt for comments he made last week to The Modesto Bee newspaper.

The judge told Geragos, however, he did not want to take up time with the matter before the trial.

Brazelton told The Modesto Bee he wanted to hold a public preliminary hearing instead of presenting evidence against Peterson before a closed grand jury.

"The longer this drags on, the more stories get bandied about out there, and about 95 percent is pure fiction and fabrication," Brazelton told the newspaper. "By putting on a prelim, they're going to see some stuff that might open some eyes."

Both the gag order and the issue of wiretaps have been sources of contention between the defense and prosecution.

Attorneys for media organizations also have filed for the release of wiretaps of conversations between Peterson and their reporters.

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