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Laci Jury Selection Almost Done

Scott Peterson and the scales of justice over a faded photo of Laci Peterson
AP / CBS
Selecting jurors in Scott Peterson's highly publicized double-murder trial has been a long, arduous process partly because some potential jurors believed the former fertilizer salesman had killed his pregnant wife.

Twelve jurors and six alternates, however, were expected to be seated Thursday, nine weeks after the process began.

It's believed a case can sometimes be won or lost during the jury selection process, reports Gloria Gomez of CBS affiliate KOVR-TV, but veteran defense attorney Dean Johnson told her it's more like unpicking a jury.

"They will get a jury that consists of the people that both sides dislike the least," he said.

Of the nearly 1,600 people summoned to court, 76 were selected for a pool from which attorneys will choose the final panel. Each side has 26 chances to dismiss potential jurors without explanation.

Hundreds of prospective jurors were dismissed because they said they could not judge the case fairly, reports CBS News Correspondent Steve Futterman. Others were excused because they said the length of the trial, expected to be around five months, would cause a hardship.

Both sides have employed high profile jury consultants.

The jurors chosen Thursday will return next Tuesday when opening statements are scheduled to begin.

The case was moved from Modesto to Redwood City when a judge ruled an impartial jury could not be seated in Peterson's hometown.

Defense attorneys then tried to move the case a second time, saying Peterson could not get a fair trial anywhere in Northern California. Judge Alfred A. Delucchi denied that motion earlier this month.

Lead attorney Mark Geragos "wants to get the trial in his backyard, Los Angeles," Court TV's Vinnie Politan told CBS News' The Early Show. "He knows the juries, he knows they're more liberal than they would be where he is now and it's further away from Modesto, Calif., which is what he wants."

There's little chance of the trial moving now, Politan says.

Still, attorney Johnson says the defense may have won the preliminaries.

"This is a slightly, pro-defense jury pool, in that I found about 34 people that I would want to challenge as a prosecutor but only about 24 that I would want to challenge as a defense attorney," said Johnson.

Peterson, 31, could face the death penalty or life without parole if he is convicted of murdering his pregnant wife, Laci, and their fetus. Laci Peterson disappeared on or around Dec. 24, 2002.

The bodies of Laci Peterson and her fetus washed ashore in April 2003, not far from where Peterson said he spent the morning of Dec. 24, 2002, on his boat.