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High-Profile Attorney Takes Peterson Case

Times Staff Writer

Weeks ago, noted defense attorney Mark Geragos predicted on national television that any lawyer would have a tough job defending Scott Peterson, who could face execution in the killing of his wife and unborn child. Some of the evidence was devastating, Geragos said.

On Friday, Geragos announced that he will defend Peterson.

“Maybe I was one of the media pundits who jumped on a bunch of misleading information and convicted the guy,” said Geragos, a frequent television commentator .

That’s classic Geragos, say those who know him.

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Geragos, who has represented such high-profile defendants as actors Winona Ryder and Robert Downey Jr. on his way to becoming one of the best-known lawyers in the country, is considered a master at influencing people inside and outside the courtroom.

“The prosecution has been winning the trial in the media,” said Loyola Law School professor Laurie Levenson. Now, Peterson has “someone who knows how to work the press.”

Former Atlanta prosecutor Nancy Grace, who has repeatedly dueled with Geragos on CNN’s Larry King show, said Friday that Geragos would be on the top of her list if she ever needed a lawyer.

“Don’t put it past Geragos to pull this off,” she said.

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After Peterson’s wife, who was 27 and eight months pregnant, disappeared, hundreds of people searched throughout California for months. A $500,000 reward was offered for information.

Peterson said he had been fishing in San Francisco Bay on Christmas Eve. He was arrested shortly after his wife’s body and that of their unborn son washed ashore in San Francisco Bay last month near a marina from which Peterson said he had gone fishing.

Stanislaus County Dist. Atty. James Brazelton announced a week ago that he would seek the death penalty on two counts of murder and the special circumstance that the case involves a multiple killing.

Geragos said Friday that he discussed his earlier television commentary with Scott Peterson’s family when they asked him to take the case.

“I told them that I didn’t think I was their guy because I had kind of made up my mind,” he said.

Geragos said he doesn’t believe those comments would hurt the case. “Not unless they call me as a witness,” he said facetiously.

Moreover, he said, he has changed his opinion after reviewing about 1,000 pages turned over to him by Peterson’s previous lawyers, and after talking with family members.

He said Peterson’s mother was “as compelling and as articulate as anybody on her son’s innocence. That, in many ways caught my attention. I told them that I would at least talk to Scott, and that was an eye-opening experience.”

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