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Jury Foreman Removed from Peterson Trial

Aired November 10, 2004 - 13:50   ET


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And welcome back, everyone, to LIVE FROM. We're continuing to follow breaking developments in the Scott Peterson murder trial. As you know, there have been a lot of developments over the last day with jurors hearing this case. And now today, in the last hour, we learned another juror in the case has been removed from that jury panel. We're being joined now by Jeffrey Toobin, our CNN legal analyst, and Rusty Dornin.
And Rusty, why don't you give us kind of a reset of where we stand right now, if you would?

RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: OK, get your scorecards out. Juror No. 5, who was the foreman of the jury, the doctor and lawyer who many of us felt was going to be very methodical, carried dozens of notebooks back into the deliberation room, he has been excused for some undisclosed reason.

He's replaced by alternate No. 3. And during the break, I had a chance to read up a little bit more on this. Alternate No. 3 is a retired male. The interesting thing is, his son-in-law used to work for Scott Peterson and eventually bought a restaurant that Scott and Laci Peterson owned in San Luis Obispo.

Now this man never knew Scott Peterson. He says his son-in-law only worked for Peterson for about six weeks and did not know him very well. So that's a very interesting connection that this new alternate on the jury has.

The other development is, they selected juror No. 6, firefighter, to be foreman of the panel. He is the one that many of us thought wasn't really interested, seemed bored many times during the trial and rarely, if ever, took any notes.

HARRIS: OK. And Jeffrey Toobin, sort of recap your thoughts as to where we stand with this case right now?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think it's obviously teetering on the edge of a mistrial and big problems. It may not go over that edge. They may be able to pull it together, settle on these 12 jurors to be the people who deliberate Scott Peterson's fate and then reach a verdict.

I think it is worth focusing for a minute -- you know, a lot of times we talk about appeal issues. Could something be an appeal issue? And you know, appeals courts have, I think, a sense of perspective, that some things really are trivial and even if a mistake is made it doesn't matter. For example, earlier in the week we had a minor controversy over whether jurors could get into the boat that's in evidence and did they get inside, did they pretend to rock the boat, did they do an experiment? That was basically a nonserious controversy.

This business about excusing jurors is a very serious matter to appeals courts. That is something they will look very hard at. And if these jurors were thrown off the jury for inappropriate reasons, or even questionable reasons, that is something that could get a conviction reversed if there is a conviction.

So I think the case really is at a critical stage. And when the transcripts are released, they are going to be examined very, very carefully.

HARRIS: OK. And Jeffrey and Rusty, let me have you stand by for just a bit longer. David Mattingly is with us now. And let's send it over to Betty.

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: David Mattingly was inside the courtroom when all of this went down. He just stepped outside right now and joins us live with the latest on what happened.

David, tell us -- set the scenario, what happened inside the courtroom when juror No. 5 was dismissed today?

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Betty, it was a very curious event. The jurors were brought back in, the way they were the other day when they were told one of their own would taken out and replaced. They came back in this time seeming more relaxed and more at ease, some of them actually smiling which they weren't the day before, indicating they were a little more lighthearted today.

But then the news came down, the judge announced that he was replacing the foreman of this jury. One of the jurors seemed to be surprised, mouthing the words "oh, man." And then Mark Geragos put his arm around Scott Peterson who was sitting next to him. They seemed to have a very positive reaction to this announcement today.

But again, in the courtroom, a sense of, well, what's next with this jury? The judge walked out and afterward, he was out of his robes and, just my interpretation of his body language, he seemed to be having the attitude of, well, here we go again.

And it's a -- again, it was a strange event, seemingly much more relaxed than what we saw yesterday when we had changes in the jury. But today, clearly, a very big change in the jury. And more suggestions that this jury is having terrible problems behind closed doors as they continue to deliberate this case, Betty.

NGUYEN: Absolutely. Let's take this step by step. Do we know why juror No. 5 was dismissed?

MATTINGLY: No, we do not. The judge did not give reasons yesterday when he dismissed that juror. He did not give reasons today in the courtroom why this juror was dismissed. Things we know about the jury foreman was that he was a doctor and a lawyer. He took meticulous notes during this trial. He walked out when the court was over. He had several handfuls of notes, a stack of notebooks in his hands as he went in to guide this jury through deliberations.

Over the past week, it has been clear he has been guiding them through some very meticulous details of this trial, asking to see numerous pieces of evidence. But now this jury foreman is out and, again, the jury is starting from scratch all over again with a new foreman.

NGUYEN: Let's bring in legal analyst now, Jeffrey Toobin. Jeffrey, there has been no explanation as to why this juror was dismissed. We only know that he was an attorney and a doctor. He also took meticulous notes. Does that give you any kind of indication -- was the fact that he was an attorney, did that play any role in this?

TOOBIN: Well, I think -- like a lot of people, I was surprised that he was left on the jury at all, Given that background, Because certainly the defense, according to the stereotypes that criminal lawyers have about witnesses, that the prosecution wouldn't want someone like that on the jury. Prosecutors tend to want jurors who are not overly creative, not overly individualistic, not likely to try to take matters into their own hands.

And the fact this person was so -- you know, extremely over- qualified to be a juror, was something as a surprise. But I really wouldn't want to speculate as to why he was thrown off. It could be any number of reasons, it could be he was doing his own research. It could be he was visiting places that were mentioned in the testimony. It could be that he brought in to the discussion matters that were not in evidence.

I mean, you know, it could be any number of things. But it certainly is surprising, to say the least, to have two people thrown off in two days.

NGUYEN: Yes, definitely surprising. And I think a lot of people are still trying to wrap their heads around all that has happened, with a juror being dismissed yesterday, a juror being dismissed today. Let's go back to you, David Mattingly. Talk to us about who is replacing juror No. 5.

MATTINGLY: Juror No. 5, the foreman, is being replaced by juror No. 6. And I was just looking over the notes we have of the jurors. He's described as a white male in his late 20s or early 30s. He's a firefighter. During the jury selection process, he did indicate that he was familiar with the trial, that he had heard his girlfriend talk about it, that he had heard the captain at the fire station where he works expressing an opinion that Scott Peterson might be innocent.

He also said that he actually knew one of the people on the jury list at the time. But, again, this was not enough for him to be kept off of this jury. He was a part of this jury from the beginning. And again, whatever he knew about this trial before the trial started, again, was not important enough to either the defense or the prosecution to keep him out of the mix.

So that's what we know about him. Any idea of how that might change the deliberations in this case, as he is now the foreman, is complete speculation at this point.

NGUYEN: All right, David and Jeffrey, I'm going to ask you to stand by. There are a lot of questions to be sorted out. We;re going to try to get you those answers. But right now, we're going to take a quick break. There's more LIVE FROM coming up.



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