Scott Peterson Trial Was Headed for Deadlock
Juror Says Dismissed Foreman Was Leaning Toward the Defense
Feb. 25, 2005 — - When the jury in the Scott Peterson double murder case delivered its verdict last November, it was unanimous: guilty of murdering his wife, Laci, and the unborn child she was carrying. But it could have been a very different story.
For the first time, one of the jurors has revealed how close the case came to a mistrial.
In an exclusive interview, John Guinasso, juror No. 8, told ABC News that the original foreman had been leading the jury in a pro-defense direction before he was dismissed one week into the panel's deliberations.
"My personal opinion is … if he was to remain on the case I think we would have had a hung jury," Guinasso told ABC News.
According to Guinasso, the foreman -- an attorney and nonpracticing M.D. -- told the other jurors on the first full day of deliberations that he was strongly persuaded by the defense's key witness, Dr. Charles March. March had testified that Laci's baby did not die until a few days after Laci's Christmas Eve 2002 disappearance. His testimony contradicted the prosecution's argument that Scott killed his wife and disposed of her body on or around Dec. 24, and that the fetus was later expelled from her corpse.
Most legal observers in the courtroom, however, said March fumbled badly on the stand and did not come across as credible.
Guinasso said that when other jurors challenged the foreman's opinion, he became flustered.
"At that point he told the 10 other people there 'I want off the trial. I've never been at a meeting like this in my life and there's too much hostility in the room,'" Guinasso said.
The foreman was let off the panel by the judge, after asking more than once to be excused. According to court documents, he told the judge he felt pressured by what he knew was the "popular verdict." An alternate took his place.
The jury went on to convict Peterson and then recommend that he be given the death penalty. Peterson is expected to make his first court appearance since the sentencing phase today, for a procedural hearing at the Redwood City courthouse.
The dismissal of the foreman -- who was apparently leaning toward Peterson's defense -- is expected to play heavily in Peterson's attempts at appeal.
But Guinasso said the judge and jury did the right thing in the case. He also said he hopes Peterson takes responsibility for the crimes for which he now stands convicted.
"He's a man who will one day wake up -- maybe it's the day before his last day on Earth, and … maybe he'll say, 'You know what, I deserve to die. I did this,'" Guinasso said.
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