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Law

Peterson faces arraignment Wednesday

Scott has denied killing his wife Laci and their unborn child.
Scott has denied killing his wife Laci and their unborn child.

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MODESTO, California (CNN) -- A year ago, Laci Peterson was living anonymously in the quiet confines of Modesto, looking forward to the joys of the Christmas season and the birth of her first child, a boy that she and her husband, Scott, had decided to name Conner.

Nearly a year has gone by and still the nation is riveted by the saga of her disappearance and death.

Scott Peterson will stand before a judge Wednesday to be arraigned on charges he killed his wife and their unborn child -- charges that could one day result in his own death.

During what is expected to be a lengthy and hard-fought hearing in Stanislaus County Superior Court, Scott Peterson's high-profile defense attorney, Mark Geragos, will argue a flurry of motions, including a demand that his trial be moved away from Modesto.

The hearing is scheduled to get under way at 8:30 a.m. (11:30 a.m. EST).

Geragos is also expected to argue the charges be dismissed because of insufficient evidence, even though Superior Court Judge Al Girolami ruled just two weeks ago that prosecutors had introduced enough evidence to bind Peterson over for trial, after a 12-day preliminary hearing. (Full story)

Peterson, 31, has pleaded not guilty, insisting he did not kill Laci or their unborn son.

Wednesday's arraignment will also include setting a trial date, although prosecutors say a trial could be delayed by the defense's legal motions.

In June, Girolami ordered participants in the trial, including attorneys and investigators, not to talk to the media in an attempt to combat the explosion of pre-trial publicity. Wednesday, the judge will decide whether to continue that restriction.

He will also consider whether Peterson's truck and nearly $15,000 in cash -- seized as evidence in the case -- should be returned.

The defense contends the truck and the money should be returned because they are not critical evidence and because the seizures have created a financial hardship for Peterson's family.

But prosecutors filed court papers Tuesday saying Peterson's Ford F-150 pickup truck was "an instrument used in the murder of Laci Peterson" -- and contained Scott's blood in the cab, a possible sign of a struggle in the killing.

"Such evidence is relevant and admissible here in that the people contend that the pickup truck was an instrument used in the murder of Laci Peterson," the prosecutors say in some of the most detailed information about their case to date. (Full story)

The judge is also expected to set a schedule for hearings on defense motions challenging evidence in the case, including information generated by wiretaps, tracking dogs, a hypnotized witness and devices used to track Peterson's vehicles.

Laci Peterson, 27, was last heard from last Christmas Eve. Scott Peterson told police that he left to go fishing in San Francisco Bay that morning and she was not there when he returned late that afternoon.

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

Frey went to police and began recording her phone calls with Peterson. Though she was not called to testify during the preliminary hearing, she is expected to be a key prosecution witness in the trial. (Transcript: Frey-Peterson phone call)

In April, the bodies of Laci Peterson and the couple's unborn son washed up on the eastern shore of San Francisco Bay, just miles from where Scott Peterson told police he had been fishing Christmas Eve.

Days later, he was arrested in San Diego and brought back to Modesto to face murder charges. He remains in jail.

Prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty.

CNN's Rusty Dornin contributed to this report.


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