The jury consulting firm DOAR assembled a group of mock jurists whose profiles closely resemble the real panel trying Scott Peterson. For example, juror No. 1 in the Peterson case is a Caucasian male, a coach in his mid- to late 30s. His counterpart on the mock jury is also a coach, and Caucasian. Juror No. 4 is a police officer in his '50s, and so there was one on the mock panel, too.
It was a carefully designed experiment that experts said would give us a sneak peak at how the real Peterson jury might vote. The mock jury heard and saw the real evidence, heard alternative theories about what happened to Laci, and finally reached a verdict.
Playing the part of the prosecutor, sociologist Jim Dobson highlighted Peterson's behavior with a list of incidents, including his ongoing affair with Amber Frey, selling Laci's car and converting the baby's room into a storage area.
Dobson asked, "Does this sound like the behavior of a man who is desperately missing his wife and waiting for her return, or does it sound more like someone who knows she is not coming home…ever?"
This jury was shown photos of Laci's hair mashed in the pliers found on Peterson's boat. They see cement residue left over from an 80- to 90-pound bag of cement, which prosecutors say he used to make anchors to weigh her body down.
Piece by piece, the mock jurors heard the prosecution's case. Dobson zeroed in on Peterson's changing alibi of where he was the day his wife went missing. "An innocent person would not forget if he went golfing or fishing," he told our jurors. "Think about it."
Peterson's defense attorney was portrayed by jury consultant Sam Solomon.
"There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that links Scott to the death of his wife and child. None, zero. Nada. Nothing," Solomon told the mock jury. "If the prosecution had a drop of direct physical evidence against my client they would have paraded it out with the rest of their so-called evidence."
He also scoffed at the alleged motive. "Are we to believe that Scott began planning the murder of his wife after having two dates with Amber Frey? Two dates makes for a plan to commit murder? It defies common sense."
Peterson's defense says that police ignored leads that showed Laci might have been kidnapped.
When Solomon rested for the defense, it became very clear, very fast, that our jurors were furious with Peterson. The scientists watched on closed-circuit television.
One thing that was apparent is that they were not putting a lot of stock in the kidnapping theory. And the coach characterized Peterson's altered appearance and possession of nearly $15,000 cash at the time of his arrest as "shady behavior."
"They are all convinced that he is guilty," Solomon conceded. "From the moral threshold, he has committed the deed. The question is, has it reached the burden-of-proof level?"
Mock juror Jeff, a former lawyer, emerged as the defense's best hope. "You can poke a lot of holes in that circumstantial evidence," he told the group.
Jeff added: "I think the defense did a really good job of poking holes and raising reasonable doubt. You know the defense doesn't have to prove this case and this guy is on trial for his life. We're talking about double murder. Life in prison or the death penalty. I don't think he's guilty."
The deliberations inside the mock jury room grew increasingly contentious. One juror mentioned numerous coincidences in the case, while another points out how not all the pieces fit together. After deliberating for hours, they were ready to vote.
The verdict? A hung jury, resulting in a mistrial.
Said Solomon, on the defense: "I think what we learned is you only need one or more jurors to actually hang a jury."
The mock defense lawyer, Dobson, said, "It doesn't surprise me that I wasn't able to bring it home."
When asked about the deliberations, mock juror Mike explained, "We took the first poll probably not even an hour into it and I said 'Everybody, which way are you leaning?' And everybody was leaning towards guilty. But when those old word came out – 'beyond a reasonable doubt' - everyone's threshold was different."
On Monday, the prosecution and defense will begin their closing arguments before the real Peterson jury in Modesto, Calif. Dobson said he thinks their verdict will mirror the mock jurors'.
"In a pool of 12 people, you will have at least one if not more jurors who will require, who will absolutely require a smoking gun," he said. "And in this case, there isn't a smoking gun."