Scott Peterson Gets High-Profile Lawyer

AP Wire Service

MODESTO, Calif. – A prominent Los Angeles lawyer who has represented celebrities and served as a television commentator in coverage of Laci Peterson’s murder said Friday he will defend her accused husband.

Mark Geragos said he had been hired by Scott Peterson (news – web sites)’s family. He will replace two public defenders assigned to Peterson during arraignment April 21, when Peterson said he couldn’t afford a lawyer.

Peterson, a 30-year-old fertilizer salesman, has pleaded innocent to two counts of murder in the deaths of his 27-year-old wife and their unborn son.

Their bodies washed ashore last month in San Francisco Bay near where Scott Peterson claimed he was fishing Christmas Eve, the day he last saw his wife.

The lawyer said he plans to review 30,000 pages of police reports by a May 19 pretrial hearing and said he would probably seek bail for Peterson, who has been held in a solitary jail cell since his arrest April 18.

Geragos has handled high-profile cases in the past. Most recently, he represented Hollywood actress Winona Ryder on shoplifting charges. He also defended Susan McDougal, the former partner in the Arkansas Whitewater land deal with President Clinton (news – web sites) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (news – web sites).

Last year, he represented former Rep. Gary Condit (news, bio, voting record) after he was romantically linked to Washington, D.C., intern Chandra Levy, who grew up in Modesto and disappeared in Washington in May 2001. He also represented Robert Downey, Jr., on drug charges.

Geragos has been a fixture on cable TV shows since Laci Peterson vanished, venturing far enough to say that police had enough to arrest Peterson and saying that he needed a good lawyer.

The case could bring the death penalty because it involves two murders.

During a short hearing Friday, Geragos said he would waive a bail hearing that had been scheduled for Tuesday.

Judge Aldo Girolami also granted his request that Peterson not have to appear in court in a red jail jump suit, bound in handcuffs, shackles and waist chains _” an image that has appeared on television and in tabloid newspapers.

“Poster-sized pictures of him labeled as a monster is not conducive to a fair trial,” Geragos said.

Thousands are expected at a memorial service Sunday for Laci Peterson, on the day that would have marked her 28th birthday.

The Stanislaus County sheriff denied Scott Peterson’s request to attend, said spokesman Kelly Huston.

Peterson has been held without bail in a solitary cell in Stanislaus County Jail since April 18 when police arrested him in San Diego, where his parents live.

Officers closed in on Peterson before the identification of the bodies was final because they feared he would flee to Mexico. At the time, he was driving a Mercedes Benz, carrying $10,000 in cash and had grown a beard and dyed his hair.

Geragos said he plans to review 30,000 pages of police reports by a May 19 pretrial hearing and would probably seek bail after learning more about the case.

“Scott is doing well and looking forward to proving his innocence,” Geragos. “And Scott looks forward to finding out who did this to Laci and his unborn child.”