Will Peterson Movie Affect Murder Case?

ByABC News
February 10, 2004, 6:39 PM

Feb. 12 -- Jury selection in Scott Peterson's murder case is expected to begin in less than two weeks, but in some ways his trial will make its world premiere on Friday on cable television.

There will be no television cameras allowed in the courtroom for the trial of Peterson, who is accused of killing his pregnant wife and their unborn son. But the USA Network will give viewers the next-best thing on Friday night, when it airs The Perfect Husband: The Laci Peterson Story.

The made-for-TV movie is based on Laci Peterson's disappearance on Christmas Eve 2002 and the events that led to Scott Peterson's arrest. Starring Lois & Clark Superman Dean Cain as Peterson, The Perfect Husband was driven by the national headlines the case has generated since images of a glowing, pregnant Laci first surfaced. Massive pretrial publicity made a judge move the trial out of Laci's hometown in Modesto, Calif., to the San Francisco area, 90 miles away.

Despite the new venue, the broadcast of a movie about his case may not help the perception particularly held by his defense attorneys that Scott Peterson cannot get a fair trial. Who knows how many prospective jurors will watch the premiere of The Perfect Husband and its encore presentations over the Valentine's Day weekend?

This may be an issue Peterson's attorneys will have to confront when they question prospective jurors.

"A lot of it would depend on how they [producers] made the movie," said Robert Talbot, a professor at the University of San Francisco School of Law. "If they portray the story in such a way that it could make Scott Peterson look sinister in some way, or that it touches on strong emotions in a community, it's possible it could sway people one way or the other, affect their point of views.

"To make it interesting, they would have to take a sympathetic view of one side, even if they say they are not," Talbot said. "I can't imagine them playing it straight-straight. This is definitely something Peterson's attorneys will have to voir dire jurors about. I can't see how they would not."