Published January 14, 2015
Juror No. 5 was removed from Scott Peterson's (search) murder trial on Wednesday by the judge, who also denied a defense motion for a mistrial.
The juror admitted discussing with his girlfriend the media coverage of his exchange with Laci Peterson's brother, according to a transcript of a closed-door meeting with Judge Alfred A. Delucchi. The judge did not specify why he dismissed the juror.
"You're not to listen to, watch or read any media reports of this trial," Delucchi admonished the panel before selecting an alternate to take the juror's place.
Outside court, the ousted juror identified himself as Justin Falconer (search), a 28-year-old airport screener who said he would have found Peterson not guilty if asked to deliberate the case now.
"He'd be innocent because the prosecution hasn't given us any reason to believe otherwise so far," he said. "Yeah he lied about a couple of things that we saw in there but I haven't seen anything to make me believe that he committed this crime."
The judge didn't specify why he dismissed Falconer but Falconer said he was kicked off the jury because his actions created a media stir that "was just too much of a distraction. He [the judge] didn't want to deal with that and didn't want that much pressure on the jurors."
That was an apparent reference to the incident last week in which Falconer briefly exchanged words with Laci Peterson's brother at the courthouse's metal detector.
Lis Wiehl, legal analyst for FOX News, scoffed at this reasoning.
"When he said it was a distraction caused by the media — that’s baloney — something else has gone on that we don't know about yet."
Delucchi subpoenaed video footage but concluded the juror did nothing wrong by joking with Brent Rocha that he was blocking television cameras from getting an unobstructed shot, a story Rocha corroborated.
The juror had also been seen almost daily giving a nod and a slight smile to the defense table as he passed by on the way to the jury box.
Peterson's lawyer, Mark Geragos (search), demanded a mistrial, saying media coverage has tainted the case.
"I've got a client who is on trial for his life," he said. "I think it's an outrage what is going on in this case."
When asked by reporters how he felt about his removal, Falconer said, "I'm not going to say I'm relieved, but I have a much more open schedule now."
He also said he'd be willing to put the experience down in ink. "Yeah, I'll do a book, who wants to do a book?"
Falconer strongly denied a report his girlfriend said had been on Court TV in which he was accused of telling Peterson "Yo, yo, peace out." He said the alleged remark had become a point of discussion among "all the other jurors."
It wasn't immediately clear whether such a report actually appeared on Court TV. A representative of the network could not be immediately reached for comment.
His removal came just before Geragos launched into a caustic cross examination of the detective who first investigated Laci Peterson's disappearance.
Falconer's comments after he was relieved of his duties made it clear his release was good news for the prosecution, Bob Massi, legal analyst for FOX News said.
"This guy has an amazing attitude, a sense of arrogance, and there's an ego there... Prosecutors have got to be having a party tonight after getting rid of this guy."
Wiehl agreed: "I don't know how this guy ever got on the panel."
Peterson, 31, is accused of murdering his wife Laci Peterson in their Modesto home on or around Dec. 24, then dumping her body into San Francisco Bay (search). He says he went alone to the bay to fish; the government claims the fishing story is a cover-up.
Defense lawyers assert Laci Peterson was abducted and her captor framed Scott Peterson after hearing his widely publicized alibi. They also say police focused too soon on Peterson, which caused them to miss other leads.
Laci Peterson's fetus, a boy the couple planned to name Conner, washed ashore April 13. Laci's body washed up from the bay a day later.
Peterson could face the death penalty if convicted.
Also Wednesday, Geragos got Detective Allen Brocchini, who first investigated Laci Peterson's disappearance, to admit he made a mistake that cast doubt on Scott Peterson's alibi.
Peterson told police he and Laci had been watching a Martha Stewart show that referenced meringue on the morning of Dec. 24.
A police report by Brocchini noted that meringue was mentioned on the Dec. 23 show, but not on Dec. 24. Prosecutors mentioned that discrepancy during opening arguments, but Brocchini conceded under Geragos' questioning that meringue had been mentioned on both shows.
"That's what I wrote," Brocchini said. "But I was wrong."
Fox News' Amy C. Sims, Mike Hess and The Associated Press contributed to this report.