MODESTO, Calif. – A survey a judge cited in his decision to move Scott Peterson's (search) capital murder trial out of Modesto contained made-up information, criminal justice students who conducted the survey told a newspaper.
The 10-county survey suggested that more jurors without bias could be found in the San Francisco Bay (search) area or Southern California than in Stanislaus County, which includes Modesto, home town of Peterson's slain wife, Laci.
But several of the California State University (search), Stanislaus students who compiled the report told The Modesto Bee they used a lot of fake information because it had been too hard to gather all the data properly. The students requested anonymity, the paper said.
"We falsified the info," a 20-year-old criminal justice student said. "The stuff we submitted wasn't true."
The Stanislaus County district attorney, James Brazelton, said that his office wants to talk to the students to confirm the allegations, and asked them to call him.
The survey was compiled by 65 students under the supervision of professor Stephen Schoenthaler.
"I'm stunned, and I find it hard to believe. It seems impossible that I could have missed something like that," Schoenthaler said.
Not all students said they'd faked their results, which accounted for 20 percent of their grade. But six students — all seniors — told the paper they had made up all of their answers because they had no time and no money for the dozens of lengthy long-distance phone calls that were required.
Other students said they used answers provided by friends and relatives, or that they completed part of the survey properly, then faked the rest. One student said she didn't want to falsify her results but couldn't complete the survey, so she saw her grade drop from an A to a C.
Scott Peterson's defense attorney Mark Geragos submitted the survey as an official case exhibit, and Stanislaus County Judge Al Girolami cited it Thursday in explaining his decision to move the trial.
When contacted by the Bee about the students' claims, Geragos said, "Hypothetically speaking, one should never put any credence in anonymous sources."
University Vice Provost Diana Demetrulias said she would investigate the situation.
Peterson, 31, is charged with two counts of murder in the killings of his pregnant wife and unborn son. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.