Jury selection is expected to begin Nov. 29 for Ernest Scherer III, the son of a couple brutally killed in their Castlewood home in March 2008.
Scherer was charged in the murders of his father, Ernie Scherer Jr., 60, and his wife, Charlene Abendroth, 57, in February 2009.
Pretrial motions for Scherer will likely take up the time until then. In motions heard today at Alameda County Superior Court, defense attorney Richard Foxall asked that evidence of Scherer's skirmishes with the law be excluded.
Scherer had been taken into custody in Biloxi, Miss., about two months after the deaths, when chips disappeared from a gaming table where he was playing; no charged were filed. Scherer also was accused of battery in July 2008 when a woman who stayed at his hotel room in Las Vegas filed a complaint with police. Those charges were later dismissed.
Judge Jeffrey Horner ruled that neither of those incidents could be brought up in court unless Scherer contradicts earlier statements if he takes the witness stand, opening him up to a perjury charge.
Foxall also moved to have Scherer's debts excluded from evidence.
"Evidence of the wealth or poverty of a defendant is not admissible," he told Horner.
Prosecutor Michael Nieto disagreed.
Evidence is admissible, he said, "to refute a defendant's claim that he did not commit a crime for financial gain."
Horner's ruling about those debts could be key because of a special circumstance clause that could boost any jail sentence Scherer receives, if he's convicted. He also faces a second special circumstances clause for multiple murder.
Earlier reports said the couple had been dead inside their Castlewood Country Club home for about a week before they were found by a club employee acting on a request by the couple's daughter.
The two were apparently bludgeoned and stabbed repeatedly, but Alameda County Prosecutor David Stein said late last year that prosecutors won't seek the death penalty.
Scherer Jr. was an active Republican fundraiser and former member of the San Ramon Valley Unified School District board. While he dabbled in playing poker for small amounts of money he made his living in real estate and investment property.
Scherer III was linked to the scene by a red Chevy Camaro, similar to the one he owned, that was spotted in the neighborhood at the time of the killings.
Scherer, in a dark suit and with neatly trimmed hair, fidgeted and looked around the nearly empty courtroom from time to time, occasionally talking in low tones to his attorney.
He has been in custody since he was arrested in February 2009.