Watch CBSN Live

Peterson Jury Resting After Drama

Jurors got a break from the recent drama of the Scott Peterson murder trial Thursday, as they took the day off from deliberations in observance of Veterans Day.

For the second day in a row, the judge in the Scott Peterson murder trial dismissed a juror, telling a reconstituted panel to once again start over with their pressure-packed deliberations.

Judge Alfred A. Delucchi did not disclose why he dismissed the jury's foreman, a man in his mid-40s who has medical and law degrees.

"What we do know about this gentleman is as recently as Monday morning, he asked the judge if he could get off the case," defense consultant Jo-Ellan Dimitrius said on CBS News' The Early Show.

The judge turned down his request and ordered him to go back in and continue to deliberate.

"Clearly whatever happened yesterday must have been so compelling not only to the judge but the attorneys that they let him go," Dimitrius said.

He was replaced Wednesday by an alternate whose future son-in-law now owns a restaurant that Scott and Laci Peterson once owned in San Luis Obispo.

Delucchi then told the new panel to set aside any conclusions they had made during deliberations and begin anew. After deliberating Wednesday afternoon, the jurors were taking Veterans Day off before resuming Friday.

The action came a day after the removal of another juror who apparently did her own research on the case, violating the judge's order to consider only evidence presented at trial.

The back-to-back removal of jurors is unusual but may not be a signal that the jury is in disarray, legal experts said. It could mean just the opposite.

"We may have seen one group actually take over leadership of the jury, which could move things a lot faster than we would have had otherwise," said Robert Talbot, a professor at the University of San Francisco School of Law. "I've never seen anything like this before."

Juror No. 6, a man who works as a firefighter and paramedic, was elected as the new foreman. During the trial, he at times seemed uninterested in the proceedings. He occasionally rolled his eyes, specifically during the playing of tape-recorded conversations between Scott Peterson and his mistress, Amber Frey.

Some jurors sat impassively, grim-faced, as Delucchi announced the latest change. Others smiled slightly, and one even shook the new foreman's hand. They have endured a five-month trial and have been sequestered since deliberations began Nov. 3.

The emotionally charged courtroom drama has become a national obsession, and some observers said jurors may be succumbing to the pressure of being in such an intense and prolonged spotlight.

"I think all the strange happenings with the jury can be attributed to the fact that they're in a pressure cooker. They know there will be a great deal of scrutiny no matter what decision they make," said Loyola Law School professor Laurie Levenson.

Dimitrius believes there will be a replacement of one more jurors before a verdict is reached.

"We know that there is a female juror that has an impending surgery," Dimitrius said. "She made the decision to stay on after being on the case for five months, but how long she can put off her surgery, obviously, only she and the judge at this point knows the answer to that question."

Prosecutors claim Scott Peterson killed his wife, Laci, then dumped her weighted body into San Francisco Bay. The remains of Laci and the fetus were discovered a few miles from where Peterson claims to have gone fishing alone the day his wife vanished.

Alternate jurors have been present throughout the trial in the jury box but have not been inside the jury room during deliberations. They have been sequestered along with regular jurors at a hotel. There are three remaining alternates.

The previous foreman, Gregory Jackson, was an alternate, replacing a juror just three weeks after the trial began. Another juror, Justin Falconer, was dismissed in June for talking to Laci Peterson's brother.

Jackson's removal came a day after the ousting of former juror Frances Gorman. Jackson and Gorman remain under a court-imposed gag order, while Falconer has been free to speak publicly.

If jurors ultimately conclude that Peterson killed his pregnant wife, Laci, and her fetus on or around Dec. 24, 2002, they must decide whether he's guilty of first- or second-degree murder.

First-degree convictions, carrying the death penalty or life without parole, would mean jurors believe Peterson planned the killings. Second-degree murder convictions don't require a finding of premeditation and carry sentences of 15-years-to-life for each count.

In another development adding to the trial's circuslike atmosphere, a boat identical to the one prosecutors allege Peterson used to dump his wife's body into the bay turned up in a parking lot several blocks from the courthouse, attracting a parade of onlookers and media before it was towed away Wednesday night.

It is the same boat defense lawyers apparently used to conduct a videotaped experiment, during which they claim the boat nearly capsized and filled with water as they attempted to heave overboard an object weighing roughly the same as Laci Peterson.

The judge would not allow defense lawyers to show jurors the video during the trial.

It was unclear who put the boat there.

View CBS News In