By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated December 04, 2003 01:00 PM

Scott Peterson pleaded not guilty in a Modesto, Calif., courtroom Wednesday to murdering his wife Laci and their unborn son, again denying the allegations that could bring him the death penalty, reports the Associated Press.

Though legal experts are debating whether the trial can proceed as quickly as the judge in the case hopes, Judge Al Girolami has scheduled Jan. 26 for the case to get underway. The experts predict that the case will be moved out of Modesto to a new and possibly more objective venue.

“That’s correct, your honor, I’m innocent,” Peterson, who was arrested in April, told Girolami on Wednesday, after he waived the reading of the indictment. The former fertilizer salesman, 31, was arraigned again because a judge last month ruled there was enough evidence for prosecutors to take the case to trial.

Wednesday’s hearing also came a day after prosecutors for the first time hinted at parts of their theory behind the Laci Peterson murder, saying that Scott bled inside the truck he allegedly used to haul her body away after killing her.

Laci Peterson, 27, was eight months pregnant when she was reported missing last Christmas Eve. Her remains washed ashore in April a few miles from where Scott said he had gone fishing.

Authorities believe her body was transported in the truck, then weighted down and tossed into San Francisco Bay.

Prosecutors had refused to return Peterson’s pickup truck because they sought to keep it as evidence, but on Wednesday, defense lawyer Mark Geragos (who is simultaneously representing Michael Jackson) persuaded the judge to order prosecutors to return the truck to his family.

Peterson’s family reportedly has been making $643 monthly payments on the vehicle for nearly a year — while legal bills also are mounting for Scott Peterson..

In another high-profile case, in Texas, Galveston Judge Susan Criss set New York real estate heir Robert Durst’s bond at $1 billion for each bail-jumping charge Wednesday, making the total bond $2 billion.

Criss said the figure was so high because Durst, 60, poses a flight risk and a safety risk to the community and to his own family.

During Wednesday’s hearing, the defense argued that Durst is now a changed man after being accused of the 2001 murder of his 71-year-old neighbor Morris Black, whose dead body Durst hacked up and deposited into Galveston Bay.

A Texas jury last month found Durst not guilty of murder.