Judge Replaces Peterson Juror

The judge in the Scott Peterson murder trial replaced a juror for misconduct on Tuesday, then ordered the jury to restart deliberations from the beginning.

No details were given for the dismissal of the juror, a retired Pacific Gas & Electric Co. employee. Her replacement is a mother of four boys who has nine tattoos, works in a bank and frequently changes her hair color.

"You must decide all questions of fact in this case from the evidence received in this trial and not from any other resource," San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Alfred A. Delucchi told the panel. "The people and the defendant have the right to a verdict reached only after full participation."

After reading a new set of instructions to the glum-faced jurors, who were in their fifth day of sequestered deliberations, Delucchi told them: "We are going to send you back to start all over again. Keep in touch."

Peterson, 32, faces two counts of first-degree murder in the death of his pregnant wife, Laci, and could face the death penalty if convicted. Prosecutors, in a case built on circumstantial evidence, contend he smothered or strangled Laci, then used a new boat to dump her body into San Francisco Bay on Christmas Eve 2002.

The juror's removal marks the second time a panel member has been dismissed. The first occurred in June during the trial.

Earlier in the day, the judge summoned lawyers to his chambers to discuss a potential problem with a juror who might have conducted some independent research. It was unknown whether it was the juror who was dismissed, and details on the reported research made available.

Legal experts suggest the shift in jury membership could tip the scale either way.

"I think there was one happy face in the courtroom -- Mark Geragos' -- because (Tuesday's courtroom activity) wasn't about a conviction," former prosecutor Jim Hammer said of the defense attorney.

But during jury-selection hearings earlier this year, the dismissed juror reportedly told prosecutor Rick Distaso that she was not comfortable with circumstantial evidence because "you can't place it in time."

She also told the court that she did not "see a motive" in the Peterson case even though media coverage seemed to be "fixated" on the defendant's guilt.

The dismissal marked the second time in two days that deliberations have been interrupted by a potential jury problem. On Monday morning, Delucchi urged the jury to keep an open mind in their deliberations after he received a note alerting him that some jurors were not getting along.

The same day, Delucchi denied a defense motion for a mistrial after several jurors, who had requested to see Peterson's boat, climbed inside the craft and began rocking it. Defense attorneys called that a violation of state law barring jurors from experimenting with evidence. Delucchi, however, disagreed on grounds the jurors' actions were within legal boundaries and did not favor the defense or the prosecution.

It was not known whether the dismissed juror was involved in Monday's discord, or the one that led to Tuesday's hearing.

After the judge's lecture, the jury on Monday asked for a variety of physical evidence, including an anchor, tidal charts, a plastic bag, a life-insurance policy and transcripts of Peterson's telephone calls to his girlfriend.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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