REDWOOD CITY, Calif. – After a second juror was removed in a two-day span, the reconstituted jury in Scott Peterson's (search) double-murder trial took Veterans' Day off Thursday before planning to resume deliberations Friday.
Juror No. 5, who was the foreman, was tossed out Wednesday, a day after another juror was dismissed and replaced. The bizarre twist was just the latest wrinkle in an already drama-filled case.
Judge Alfred A. Delucchi (search) wouldn't say why he removed the latest juror from the panel and replaced him with an alternate, a retired man in his 60s whose future son-in-law owns a restaurant once owned by Peterson and his murdered wife, Laci.
Delucchi told the new panel they needed to start their deliberations over, for the second day in a row.
"You must therefore set aside all past deliberations and begin deliberating anew," he said Wednesday, echoing remarks he made Tuesday when he threw out another juror.
Peterson, 32, is charged with two counts of murder in the deaths of his pregnant wife, Laci, and the 8-month-old fetus she carried. Prosecutors claim Peterson killed Laci around Christmas Eve 2002, then dumped her weighted body from his boat into San Francisco Bay. He faces life in prison or death if convicted.
The foreman booted Wednesday, Gregory Jackson, is in his mid-40s, has medical and law degrees and works as an attorney at a company that makes a heart drug. He was himself an alternate who replaced juror Justin Falconer (search) in June — just three weeks after the murder trial began — because Falconer had been spotted talking to Laci Peterson's (search) brother during courtroom breaks.
Jackson was the third juror removed since the start of the trial; a day earlier, Delucchi excused Frances Doris Gorman, 58. Jackson and Gorman remain under a court-imposed gag order, meaning the public and press have little insight into the potential troubles that have plagued the Peterson jury during deliberations. Falconer has been free to speak publicly since he was sent home.
The back-to-back removal of jurors is unusual but does not signal that the jury is either hopelessly split or moving swiftly toward a verdict, legal experts said. The judge indicated jurors had been communicating with the court but would not elaborate.
Some observers said jurors may be succumbing to the pressure of being in an intense and prolonged spotlight. They have endured a five-month trial and have been sequestered since deliberations began Nov. 3.
"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.
Juror No. 6, a male firefighter and paramedic from the original panel, was chosen as the new foreman.
During the trial, he at times seemed uninterested in the proceedings. He was seen rolling his eyes on occasion, specifically when tape-recorded conversations between Scott Peterson and his girlfriend, Amber Frey (search), were played.
"He was one of the jurors who seemed most bored during Amber Frey's testimony," said Jim Hammer, a former San Francisco prosecutor who has been observing the case. "He seems very mainstream, which is good for the prosecution."
Robert Talbot, a professor at the University of San Francisco School of Law who has been periodically observing the trial, disagreed, saying the new foreman could bode well for the defense.
"Juror No. 6 was probably one of the leaders of the defense faction, given his demeanor during the trial," he said. "And now it seems the faction of the jury in which Juror No. 6 was on has taken over leadership of the jury and it may not be in disarray at all. It may be heading for a verdict a lot faster than we thought."
Hammer said it is too soon to say the jury is in disarray.
"I wouldn't call it a runaway jury," he said.
A jury expert said the foreman's removal could indicate that the panel is concerned about its leadership.
"They went with somebody who seems a little less rigid," said David Graeven, a jury consultant from San Francisco with no connection to the Peterson trial.
The jury arrived in court Wednesday morning to start deliberations from scratch, which is legal procedure when a juror is replaced. There was no information on whether they'd actually started their second round of deliberations Wednesday when Jackson — who reportedly took copious notes during the trial — was sent home.
Some jurors sat impassively, grim-faced, as Delucchi announced the latest change. Others were seen smiling slightly, and one even shook the new foreman's hand.
Wednesday's move leaves the jury pool with just three remaining alternates. Originally there were six.
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 an area hotel.
The newest juror's daughter is engaged to the man who owns the Shack restaurant in San Luis Obispo, Calif., which Scott and Laci Peterson bought and ran for a while. The juror's future son-in-law had worked for the Petersons when they owned the cafe and eventually purchased it from the person the Petersons sold it to before the couple moved to Modesto, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Jackson's replacement was questioned during jury selection about his distant connection with the Petersons, and attorneys on both sides agreed he would not represent a conflict.
"It's unheard of in a murder case to have a juror who knew both the defendant and the victim," said FOX News legal analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano. "But if there's no personal knowledge, that's one degree of separation and that's certainly acceptable."
The new juror is an avid boater, FOX has learned, though he isn't familiar with the Berkeley Marina in the San Francisco Bay, where Scott Peterson said he went fishing the day his pregnant wife vanished and where the bodies of Laci and the unborn baby washed up months later.
Jackson's replacement has served on two juries before: a criminal case, where the defendant was acquitted, and a civil case, FOX has learned. He said during jury selection that his jury duty experiences had been pleasant and it was "nice to see the system work."
On Tuesday, when the pool of 12 had been mulling the case over for five days, Gorman — who was Juror No. 7 — was let go and replaced by an alternate, a woman in her 30s who is the mother of four boys. There was no official word on what Gorman did to warrant being booted off the panel, either.
But a source told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity that the retired Pacific Gas & Electric Corp. (search) employee had apparently done her own research during deliberations, disobeying the judge's orders to consider only the evidence presented at the trial.
Other insiders told FOX that Gorman was either doing outside research, or not fully participating in jury deliberations, or both, though none of the reported reasons she was ousted could be confirmed.
Jurors are forbidden from doing outside research of any kind that relates to the trial they are deciding.
"You must decide all questions of fact in this case from the evidence received in this trial and not from any other resource," Delucchi told the panel after replacing the juror with an alternate. "The people and the defendant have the right to a verdict reached only after full participation."
Gorman was said to have been emotionless during testimony and seemed responsive to defense lawyer Mark Geragos (search), FOX learned. She reportedly said she could believe Peterson was falsely accused during jury selection, sources told FOX News.
"I don't see a motive for something that heinous," Gorman apparently said before the trial began, though she acknowledged prosecutors could be "keeping the case close to the vest."
The alternate replacing Gorman is nicknamed "Pinky" and "Strawberry Shortcake" because her hair has been dyed pink or bright red and she has a penchant for pink clothing. The tattooed mother has reportedly been expressive during testimony, crying on several occasions — including over the exhibit of autopsy photographs.
The replacement juror worked at a bank, and has a brother who was in and out of prison for drugs — leading her mother to become a drug counselor at a methadone clinic.
Sources close to the case told FOX News that the defense was happy Gorman was tossed off the jury because in spite of her comments during jury selection, more recently, she seemed to be siding with the prosecution.
Howard Varinsky, who helped picked the jury for the prosecution, told FOX that "on the face of it, the former juror looks better for us than this new one who has red hair and tattoos ... But this new juror is more solid than she looks and has a more solid lifestyle than it appears."
The very first dismissed juror told FOX he was surprised about the claim that Gorman had been doing research. Falconer said she seemed open-minded and kind, and described her replacement as strong-willed.
"I don't think she'll be pushed around in the jury room," Falconer told FOX, referring to Gorman's alternate.
Whether the shuffling of jurors means anything when it comes to deciding if Peterson is guilty of murder remains to be seen. Also unclear is whether the original members of the six-man, six-woman jury will be able to follow the judge's orders and set aside any conclusions made during the first five days of deliberations.
The jury has two choices should they decide to convict Peterson — first- or second-degree murder. A first-degree conviction would mean jurors believe Peterson planned the killings in advance, and it could carry the death penalty or life without parole.
Discord was evident early in the deliberations. On Monday, Delucchi lectured the panel about the importance of keeping an open mind. That talk came after the jury indicated the panel was deeply divided and unable to reach a consensus on the murder charges.
"It is rarely helpful for a juror at the beginning of deliberations to express an emphatic opinion on the case," the judge said then, before sending the panel back to the jury room.
After hearing from the judge on Monday, jurors asked to review numerous pieces of evidence, including San Francisco Bay tidal charts seized from Peterson's computers; an anchor found on Peterson's boat that prosecutors allege is similar to the ones he used to sink his wife's body; transcripts and recordings of telephone calls between Peterson and his mistress, Amber Frey; information regarding a life insurance policy on Laci Peterson; a two-day fishing license Peterson purchased on Dec. 23 for what he claimed was a last-minute Christmas Eve fishing trip; and a transcript of a police interview of Peterson regarding his whereabouts on the day his wife vanished.
Jurors earlier had viewed the small aluminum boat prosecutors claim Peterson used to dispose of his wife's body. 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.
After the boat viewing, defense lawyer Geragos sought a mistrial, claiming jurors violated the judge's order by doing "a juror experiment" when several of the panelists got inside the boat and rocked it from side to side. The judge quickly denied the motion.
As an alternative to a mistrial, Geragos asked the judge to be allowed to show jurors a videotaped experiment performed by the defense. Delucchi denied that request as well.
In another development adding to the trial's circus-like atmosphere, a boat identical to the one prosecutors allege Peterson used to dump his wife's body into San Francisco Bay turned up in a parking lot several blocks from the courthouse, attracting a parade of onlookers and media.
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. Delucchi ruled against allowing the defense to show that video to jurors during the trial.
Inside the boat, parked outside an office building being rented by the defense team, were numerous items, including a large bag filled with weights apparently intended to simulate Laci Peterson's 153-pound body.
It was unclear who put the boat there, but Gloria Allred, a Los Angeles attorney who represents Frey, called it "disgusting."
"It's really disrespectful to the family of the murder victim, to see her portrayed in this way," Allred said, referring to the simulated body. "It's bad taste. It's sickening."
FOX News' Catherine Donaldson-Evans, Rita Cosby, Trace Gallagher and The Associated Press contributed to this report.