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Change of venue sought in trial of Scott Peterson

Scott Peterson, left, and defense attorney Mark Geragos talk during a hearing in Modesto last Friday.
Scott Peterson, left, and defense attorney Mark Geragos talk during a hearing in Modesto last Friday.

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Scott Peterson

MODESTO, California (CNN) -- The defense attorney for Scott Peterson -- charged in the killing of his pregnant wife and their unborn child -- has filed for a change of venue motion, saying pretrial publicity has tainted the jury pool in Northern California.

"The extent and intensity of the publicity in this case is of unprecedented proportions in Northern California," said attorney Mark Geragos.

Geragos said as evidence of the public's anger toward the case, the tires on his vehicle were slashed on May 9 of this year while he visited Peterson in jail.

Peterson, 31, is charged in the killings of his 27-year-old wife, Laci, and their unborn son.

At an arraignment hearing earlier this month, Peterson denied killing his wife and their unborn child. (Full story)

The charges carry the death penalty.

A trial date of January 26 has been set, but pretrial hearings such as Monday's defense motion asking for a change of venue, and an anticipated defense move to ask for dismissal of the charges, could delay the trial's start.

Laci Peterson, 27, was last heard from last Christmas Eve. She was eight months pregnant. Scott Peterson, 31, a fertilizer salesman, told police he left to go fishing that morning and she was not there when he returned late that afternoon.

In April, the bodies of Laci and the couple's unborn son washed up on the eastern shore of San Francisco Bay, just miles from where Scott Peterson said he had been fishing. He was arrested days later in San Diego and brought back to Modesto to face murder charges.

A gag order is in place preventing participants from talking to the media.

Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Al Girolami has also said autopsy photos would remain sealed.

A full hearing on the change of venue motion is scheduled for January 7. The next day, Geragos is expected to argue another motion to dismiss the charges because of insufficient evidence. (Full story)

That motion will be assigned to another judge. Girolami has already ruled that prosecutors had presented enough evidence to bind Peterson over for trial.

Laci Peterson's disappearance set off a massive search that triggered nationwide media interest -- publicity that alerted a Fresno massage therapist named Amber Frey that her new boyfriend, Scott Peterson, had a missing wife in another city.

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