- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 9, 2004

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. (AP) — In a sign of possible discord in the jury room, the judge in Scott Peterson’s murder case lectured the panel yesterday about the importance of deliberating with an open mind.

“Do not hesitate to change your opinion for the purpose of reaching a verdict if you can do so,” Judge Alfred A. Delucchi said, after summoning jurors to the courtroom just an hour and half after they resumed deliberations.

“The attitude and conduct of jurors at all times is very important,” he added. “It is rarely helpful for a juror at the beginning of deliberations to express an emphatic opinion on the case.”

The jurors listened with serious, even grim expressions before they were sent back to deliberate.

It was not clear what led to the judge’s instructions, but trial observers speculated that jurors are beginning to reach a deadlock.

“They’re stuck,” said Jim Hammer, a former prosecutor and trial regular. The judge “clearly has indications that they’re beginning to hang.”

Earlier yesterday, Judge Delucchi denied a defense motion for a mistrial after jurors examined the boat that prosecutors say Mr. Peterson used to dispose of his wife’s body.

Defense lawyer Mark Geragos said jurors violated the judge’s orders by doing “a juror experiment” when several panelists got inside the boat and rocked it from side to side.

The defense has argued that it would have been nearly impossible for Mr. Peterson to have heaved his wife’s 153-pound body over the edge of the boat without it tipping.

As an alternative to a mistrial, Mr. Geragos asked the judge to show jurors a videotaped experiment performed by the defense apparently showing that the boat would have tipped. Judge Delucchi denied the motion.

Mr. Peterson is charged with two counts of murder in the deaths of his wife, Laci, and the couple’s unborn son, Conner. Prosecutors say Mr. Peterson killed his wife sometime near Dec. 24, 2002, then sunk her body in the bay.

Defense lawyers say someone else abducted Mrs. Peterson, killed her and then framed her husband.

The sequestered jury began deliberations on Wednesday and recessed for the weekend. Jurors were monitored in a hotel where they could watch only sports and movies on television and could use a computer without access to the Internet. They were forbidden from discussing the case.

Jurors have two choices should they decide to convict Mr. Peterson — first- or second-degree murder. First-degree convictions, carrying the death penalty or life imprisonment without parole, would mean jurors think Mr. Peterson planned the killings in advance.

Second-degree murder convictions don’t require a finding of premeditation and carry sentences of 15 years to life for each count.

Also yesterday, the presiding judge of the courthouse ruled against media lawyers who were seeking to have cameras stationed about 40 feet down a hallway from the courtroom. Last week, Judge Delucchi banned television and still cameras from the courtroom for the verdict, but said he would allow a live audio broadcast.

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