REDWOOD CITY, Calif. – A judge told bedraggled jurors considering Scott Peterson’s fate to continue deliberating Monday and to be willing to re-examine previously held beliefs, indications the panel could be at an impasse.

While Judge Alfred Delucchi did not declare the jury was deadlocked, he read the six-man, six-woman panel three jury instructions imploring them to continue their talks.

“Do not hesitate to change an opinion if you are convinced it is wrong,” Delucchi said. “Do not decide any question in a particular way because a majority of the jurors or any of them favor such a decision.” Pointing out that the trial has continued for more than five months, Delucchi encouraged jurors to keep an open mind.

“The attitude and conduct of jurors at all times is very important,” he said. “It is rarely helpful for a juror at the beginning of deliberations to express an emphatic opinion on the case or to announce a determination to stand for the certain verdict. When one does that at the outset a sense of pride may be aroused and one may hesitate to change a position even if it is shown to be wrong.”

Legal analysts following the case said the instructions were an obvious sign of trouble.

“A judge will give that type of charge to the jury anytime they say, “We don’t want to do this anymore,”‘ said San Mateo, Calif., lawyer Paula Canny.

Jurors began deliberating on Wednesday whether Peterson killed his pregnant wife and unborn son nearly two years ago.

The Modesto, Calif., man was arrested in April 2003 after Laci Peterson’s remains and those of the fetus she was carrying washed ashore in Richmond near where he was fishing the day they vanished. Jurors have asked to see dozens of pieces of evidence since getting the case.

Their request late Friday to see Peterson’s 14-foot fishing boat led to a defense request Monday for a mistrial. Two jurors got inside the boat while it was on a trailer, defense attorney Mark Geragos said. One juror stood up while the other moved closer to the edge, lawyers said.

“When I say rocking, I mean rocking,” Geragos said. “That is precisely what is not allowed under (jury instructions).” Given what he called jurors’ experimentation, Geragos asked Delucchi to allow him to present jurors with a demonstration he conducted on the water.

Defense lawyers tried to duplicate the prosecution’s theory that Peterson dumped the body of his pregnant wife overboard on Dec. 24, 2002.

While the video of the demonstration was not presented in court, those familiar with the experiment have said the boat capsized. Geragos fought to present the video to jurors, but Delucchi denied that request initially and reaffirmed that ruling Monday morning. Geragos also asked for a mistrial, which Delucchi denied.

A short time later, Delucchi summoned jurors to the courtroom to further instruct them. He then told them to continue deliberating. Delucchi said he planned to read to jurors another instruction if they again indicated any problems.

“If I have to bring the jury back again I’m going to read this to them,” he said, waving several papers in the air. “We’ll see what develops.”

The additional instruction urges jurors to consider changing their approach to discussions to include having different jurors lead discussions or reverse role-playing in which an opposing point is argued.

If one juror in particular appears to be stalling proceedings, Delucchi could remove him or her from the panel and replace them with an alternate, according to California case law.

While jurors appeared to continue bickering over the case behind closed doors, lawyers for the media argued in a nearby courtroom that cameras should be allowed on the second floor of the courthouse here.

Judge Mark Forcum had reversed on Oct. 28 his earlier ruling in June preventing still and broadcast cameras from staking out the second floor where the Peterson trial is being conducted.

Members of the media had asked for the reconsideration after Delucchi barred cameras from the courtroom when the verdict is read.

Lawyers representing newspapers had argued that the public has a right to know and see what transpires in this intensely watched case. But Forcum again changed his decision Monday and barred cameras from being placed down the hall from the Peterson trial courtroom.

Attorneys for the prosecution and defense told Forcum that allowing cameras in either the courtroom or in a hallway would unfairly put families on either side of the case on public display during an emotional time.

Forcum agreed, but allowed the press pool to bring in two additional broadcast cameras and one additional still camera to record happenings on the first floor as they unfold.

“Counsel has presented compelling arguments on the need to preserve dignity of the families,” Forcum said. “On a human level, that cannot and should not be disregarded.”



(c) 2004, Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.).

Visit the Contra Costa Times on the Web at http://www.contracostatimes.com.

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

AP-NY-11-08-04 1854EST



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