Redwood City, Calif. The Scott Peterson murder trial took yet another strange twist Wednesday when the judge removed the jury's foreman amid a week of pressure-packed deliberations -- the second straight day that a juror was sent home.
The judge did not disclose why he removed the juror, a man in his mid-40s who has medical and law degrees. He replaced by an alternate whose future son-in-law owns a restaurant that Scott and Laci Peterson themselves once owned.
For the second day in a row, Judge Alfred A. Delucchi told the new panel to start over with its deliberations. "You must therefore set aside all past deliberations and begin deliberating anew," he said Wednesday. The jury finished deliberating for the day around 4 p.m.
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.
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 a week ago.
"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.
The trial started with six alternates, and Wednesday's move leaves the jury pool with just three remaining alternates.
Jurors are deliberating whether Peterson, 32, killed his pregnant wife on or around Christmas Eve 2002 and dumped her weighted body in 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.
The former fertilizer salesman faces up to life in prison or the death penalty if convicted.
The newest juror was questioned during jury selection about his distant connection with the Petersons, and attorneys on both sides agreed he would not represent a conflict. His daughter is engaged to a man who owns a restaurant in the town where Scott and Laci Peterson graduated from college. The future son-in-law worked for the Petersons when they owned the cafe.
The new foreman is a man who works as a firefighter and paramedic.