June 23, 2004 03:05 PM

Juror No. 5 in the Scott Peterson double-murder trial was dismissed from the jury on Tuesday after admitting that he discussed the media coverage with his girlfriend.

Justin Falconer, 28, a former airport screener and single parent from San Mateo, Calif., was removed after two hours of closed-door deliberations. He told reporters afterward that he regretted being kicked off.

“I understand where they’re coming from. I didn’t expect to be on much longer,” he said. “I wish I could have been there the whole time. I was too much of a distraction.”

When asked about the case, Falconer said he would have found Peterson innocent.

“If I had to judge today, he would be innocent,” he said. “The prosecution hasn’t shown any evidence. I’m not getting a story (from prosecutors).” He added that “the pace was driving me nuts. We heard the same doggone thing day after day. So far, I was falling asleep.”

Meanwhile, Peterson’s lawyer, Mark Geragos, demanded a mistrial, which was rejected by the judge. “I’ve got a client who is on trial for his life,” Geragos said, according to the Associated Press. “I think it’s an outrage what is going on in this case.”

Replacing Falconer on the jury is juror No. 1, a middle-aged white male who is a lawyer and a doctor.

The controversy surrounding the juror first surfaced last Thursday, when he was videotaped by a television cameraman speaking to Laci Peterson’s brother, Brent Rocha, at a ground-floor security checkpoint as they waited to enter the San Mateo County Superior Court. The same juror also spoke to defense attorney Mark Geragos during a recess last week, the Modesto Bee reported.

Geragos said that he received calls from the juror’s family members and friends last weekend, after they recognized Falconer’s face on camera despite the fact that it was obscured. (Cameras are prohibited in the courtroom and on the second floor where the trial is taking place, but they’re allowed on the ground floor entrance area.)

Judge Alfred Delucchi initially ruled that “there has been no misconduct.” Delucchi also said he was working with the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Department to determine a way to prevent jurors and family members from entering the courthouse at the same time.

Judge Delucchi admonished the panel of 12 jurors and six alternates in a closed-door meeting before selecting an alternate juror. “You’re not to listen to, watch or read any media reports of this trial,” he said.

Peterson is accused of killing his wife Laci and their unborn child on or around Dec. 24, 2002, and then dumping the body in San Francisco Bay. He has pleaded not guilty.

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