REDWOOD CITY, Calif. - The judge in the Scott Peterson murder trial removed the foreman from the jury Wednesday, the second time in two days a juror has been sent home.
The judge did not disclose why he removed juror No. 5., a man in his mid-40s who has both medical and law degrees. The juror was replaced by an alternate whose son-in-law now owns a restaurant that Scott and Laci Peterson themselves once owned.
Judge Alfred A. Delucchi told the new panel to start all over with their deliberations - for the second day in a row.
"You must therefore set aside all past deliberations and begin deliberating anew," he said Wednesday.
Jurors sat impassively, some grim-faced, as the judge announced the change. They have endured a five-month trial and have been sequestered since deliberations began Nov. 3.
The dismissal marks the third time a juror has been removed in the high-profile case.
On Tuesday, a juror was removed after reportedly doing her own research on the case - a violation of court rules. In June, a juror was dismissed after he was spotted talking to Laci Peterson's brother.
The trial started with six alternates, and Wednesday's move leaves the jury pool with just three remaining alternates.
The new juror has a distant connection to Scott and Laci Peterson.
His daughter is engaged to a man who owns a restaurant in the town where Scott and Laci Peterson graduated from college. The son-in-law had worked for the Petersons when they owned the cafe, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Juror No. 6, a man who works as a firefighter and paramedic, was elected as the new foreman.
During the trial, he at times seemed uninterested in the proceedings. He was seen rolling his eyes on occasion, specifically during the playing of tape-recorded conversations between Peterson and his girlfriend, Amber Frey.
"He was one of the jurors who seemed most bored during Amber Frey's testimony," said Jim Hammer, a former prosecutor who has been observing the case. "He seems very mainstream, which is good for the prosecution."
Hammer said it is too soon to say the jury is in disarray.
"I wouldn't call it a runaway jury," he said.
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.