Judge: Media, Public Allowed at Peterson Preliminary Hearing

The media and the public will be allowed in the preliminary hearing for the Scott Peterson double-murder trial, a judge ruled Thursday, but the decision about cameras in the courtroom will be made another day.

Judge Al Girolami's decision to have an open preliminary hearing was a defeat for the defense, who did not want the public and media present at the hearing.

Peterson's defense team requested that nobody except essential personnel be in the courtroom during the hearing, currently scheduled for Sept. 9.

The judge has yet to rule on cameras in the courtroom. Members of the media are pushing for on-camera proceedings. Peterson's defense attorney Mark Geragos (search) was previously against the use of cameras, but in a sudden turnaround Thursday, he changed his mind and is now siding with the media.

The prosecution does not want cameras in the courtroom.

Chief Deputy District Attorney John Goold said in a brief news conference Thursday that he expected a change of venue at some point for the trial.

The hearing at Stanislaus County Superior Court (search) began at 11:30 a.m. ET.

In other news, the defense said paintings have turned up in the Bay Area that depict demonic scenes, including caricatures of the devil, pictures of pregnant women, pictures of babies with umbilical cords floating in the water and people being beheaded.

Peterson's team is hoping the discovery of the paintings will bolster its theory that Laci Peterson's death could be linked to an area satanic cult.

But the local artists who created the murals said there is nothing satanic about them or their work and there is no link between the paintings and Laci Peterson.

Open/Shut Case

In Thursday's proceedings, media lawyers argued that no preliminary hearings in high-profile cases -- including those for O.J. Simpson and actor Robert Blake -- have been closed in almost two decades.

Preliminary hearings in California are like minitrials, with testimony from witnesses. At the end, a judge decides whether the case goes to trial.

Geragos contended that an open discussion of the evidence would prevent a fair trial.

"There's no way if we have an open hearing to rein in or control how that information gets out," he told the judge. "You always have the struggle of whether or not those witnesses have been tainted."

Media attorney Rochelle Wilcox argued that an open hearing "is the only way to assure that what gets to the public is accurate."

Girolami also called for an inquiry into a possible defense gag order violation, placing it on Thursday's hearing agenda. The agenda, issued Wednesday, did not specify why the judge had done so.

Additionally, rumors swirled that the defense may want to postpone the hearing another month or two.

A Family's Plea

Also on Thursday, Laci Peterson's family released a statement through attorney Adam Stewart, asking that the media be respectful in its coverage of the case.

"We plead with the media to be sensitive," said the statement from Laci's mother, Sharon Rocha, and the rest of the Rocha family.

"This is our Laci and Conner, whom we love with all our hearts," the statement said. "This is not a story. This is our life. Please treat her in death respectfully. …We ask that you respect our privacy and understand our pain as we grieve."

Scott Peterson, 30, has been held without bail since his arrest in April, when the remains of his pregnant wife, Laci, and their unborn son, Conner, washed ashore in San Francisco Bay.

The former fertilizer salesman said he was fishing near the area on Christmas Eve, when Laci, 27, disappeared from their Modesto, Calif., home.

Peterson has pleaded innocent to two counts of murder. He could face the death penalty if convicted.

Fox News legal editor Stan Goldman and The Associated Press contributed to this report.