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Now it’s Alfred Delucchi’s turn. On Tuesday, the retired Alameda County Superior Court judge was handed the Scott Peterson trial. A former Alameda County prosecutor, Delucchi is a death penalty trial specialist who has handled at least 22 capital cases, with juries returning death verdicts in six. That mixed capital case track record, combined with a laidback personality, makes Delucchi a popular pick among prosecutors and defense attorneys. The 72-year-old judge isn’t routinely challenged, they point out, even though his son, Paul Delucchi, is a deputy DA in Alameda. Chief Justice Ronald George selected Delucchi on Tuesday after prosecutors challenged the first assigned judge, retired Contra Costa County Judge Richard Arnason, last week. Delucchi’s assignment starts Monday with pretrial motions in San Mateo County Superior Court. “He is one of the old-school judges who doesn’t think he was divinely anointed,” said Alameda Assistant DA James Anderson. “He is a regular guy. He’s congenial.” Peterson’s defense lawyers are not expected to bump Delucchi with a peremptory challenge. Stanislaus County District Attorney James Brazelton used his one peremptory on Arnason. His office has charged Peterson with two counts of murder on charges that he killed his pregnant wife, Laci, and their unborn child; Brazelton is seeking the death penalty. The case was moved from Modesto to Redwood City a week ago. A spokeswoman in Brazelton’s office declined to comment. She cited a gag order, as did Mark Geragos, Peterson’s L.A.-based defense lawyer. Anderson, who oversees Alameda County’s death team and has tried four capital cases in front of Delucchi, said the judge will give prosecutors a fair shake. “He is fabulous. He is extremely open-minded and fair to both sides,” Anderson said. “He is a very friendly forum to try Scott Peterson. He knows the ins and outs of death penalty law. I would be surprised if the defense mounted a challenge against him.” Delucchi’s first order of business Monday will be ruling on a defense motion challenging the prosecution’s removal of Arnason as untimely. He’s no stranger to closely watched courtrooms. He has presided over trials for a long list of capital defendants, including Giles Nadey, the carpet cleaner sentenced to death in 2000 for raping and killing a pastor’s wife in an Alameda rectory, and Keith Thomas, who in 1998 was sent to death row for the kidnap, rape and murder of a 25-year-old woman at an Oakland BART station. The jury in Delucchi’s most recent death case, the 2003 trial of Ruben Vasquez for gunning down a deputy sheriff, hung 6-6 on the death sentence. Defense attorneys said Delucchi is a decent draw in a death case. They said he’s personable and gives attorneys a lot of room for voir dire, including allowing for questionnaires. “He’s got heart and he understands people. From a defense perspective, that’s the best you can ask for,” said Pleasanton defense attorney Harry Traback Jr., who represented Vasquez. “He is not going to do anything out of the ordinary for the defense, but he excludes aggravating evidence.” Traback says he explained to his clients Delucchi’s family ties to the DA’s office, but said, “I don’t think Al Delucchi is beholden to the district attorney’s office. He chewed out the prosecution in [one of] my cases a number of times.” Traback said it’s too early to say how receptive Delucchi will be to allowing in the defense’s theory of the crime: that men kidnapped Laci and held her captive for months. “I don’t think many judges would let it in,” Traback said. “But if they can tie it together somehow into a coherent defense, the judge will let it in.” Delucchi, who currently handles arraignments and pretrial matters as an assigned judge in the Hayward Hall of Justice, did not return calls Tuesday. An Oakland native, he graduated from Santa Clara University School of Law in 1960. He served as an Alameda County prosecutor from 1961 to 1966, then worked in private practice at Hayward’s Martins, Bernhardt & Delucchi until Gov. Ronald Reagan appointed him to the San Leandro-Hayward municipal bench in 1971. Before his retirement in 1998, he was one of Oakland’s five homicide judges. His son, Paul, is a prosecutor on the narcotics task force. Alameda County Assistant DA Jonathan Goodfellow, who tried Vasquez, said Alameda prosecutors like Delucchi. “His strength is his personality. Everybody likes him,” Goodfellow said. “He calls it as he sees it. He’s not afraid to make a decision. He calls it down the middle. He gets it right 99 percent of the time.” Alameda County Assistant Public Defender James McWilliams said Delucchi keeps current with the law and is one of a handful of judges who regularly attends meetings where prosecutors give a primer on the latest changes in the law. “He is certainly somebody who would give both sides an opportunity to make a presentation and then make a fair ruling,” McWilliams said. “He is a graduate of the Alameda district attorney’s office. It’s hard to think that prosecutors would have an objection.” Oakland defense attorney James Giller represented carpet cleaner Nadey in 2000. The first jury hung on the sentence, but the second jury voted for death. Giller said Delucchi hears lawyers out, but doesn’t like to revisit issues. “He’ll let you talk and make your point, but once he’s ruled, he’s ruled,” Giller said. Giller said Delucchi didn’t allow cameras in the courtroom during the Nadey trial. “I doubt he’ll allow cameras now,” Giller said. Some of the other capital cases that Alfred Delucchi has presided over: People v. Sarah Mitchell, 2001 Sarah Mitchell was convicted of killing her sister Stevie Allman, dismembering the body and stuffing it into a freezer. Delucchi sentenced Mitchell to life in prison without the possibility of parole after a jury voted against a death sentence. People v. Gregory Tate, 1993 Gregory Tate was sentenced to death for the murder of social worker Sarah LaChapelle. Tate stabbed her 50 times with kitchen knives and sliced off her finger so he could take her wedding ring and give it to his girlfriend. People v. Tyrone Robinson, 1991 Tyrone Robinson was convicted of killing Black Panther co-founder Huey Newton on an Oakland street. He boasted that the execution-style killing improved his status in his own gang. Though charged as a capital case, Delucchi sentenced Robinson to 32 years to life in prison.

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