01/08/2004 at 01:00 AM EST
The judge in the double-murder trial of Scott Peterson ruled on Thursday that the accused cannot get a fair jury in his dead wife's hometown and ordered the case moved out of California's Stanislaus County, reports the Associated Press.
Prosecutors, who are seeking the death penalty, had argued that news coverage of the case, which gained national notoriety, was so widespread that there was no point in moving the trial.
Peterson, 31, is charged with two counts of murder in the deaths of his 27-year-old wife, Laci, and their unborn son in December 2002. The couple lived in Modesto.
In April 2003, the bodies of Laci and the child washed up on the eastern shore of San Francisco Bay, just miles from where Scott Peterson, a fertilizer salesman, said he had been fishing. He was arrested days later in San Diego and brought back to Modesto to face murder charges.
Peterson's defense lawyer Mark Geragos, who currently is also defending Michael Jackson in his high-profile case, argued in court papers that Peterson has been demonized and that the prosecution's argument "can be boiled down to the old adage, 'Sure we can give him a fair trial, then we will take him out and hang him.'"
In agreeing to the change of venue on Thursday, Judge Al Girolami suggested that jurors could be selected in neighboring San Joaquin County and transported 30 miles each day from Stockton, AP reports.
There's no final decision on where the trial will take place, but it is scheduled to begin Jan. 26. In all likelihood, however, it will be postponed if there is a change in location.