The six-man, six-woman panel tells the judge they may be deadlocked in the murder case

By Marla Lehner and Ron Arias
Updated November 08, 2004 02:00 PM

Jurors in the Scott Peterson double-murder trial told the judge Monday that they may be unable to reach a verdict, the Associated Press reports.

The jury was summoned to the courtroom an hour and a half after they resumed deliberations, where judge Alfred A. Delucchi sternly re-read a key part of the instructions given to them last week.

“Remember,” he said, “you are to be impartial judges of the facts.”

It was not clear what led to the judge’s instructions.

“The people and the defendant are entitled to the individual opinion of each juror,” the judge added. “Do not hesitate to change your opinion for the purpose of reaching a verdict if you can do so.”

Earlier Monday the jurors visited the boat that prosecutors say Scott used to transport his pregnant wife Laci’s body.

The defense asked for a mistrial after the jury viewed the boat and several panelists got inside and rocked the 14-foot vessel from side to side. Defense lawyer Mark Geragos claimed jurors violated the judge’s order by performing “a juror experiment.” The judge denied the motion.

The prosecution has alleged that Scott Peterson killed Laci, brought her body to the Berkeley Marina, weighted her down and dumped her into the San Francisco Bay. Defense lawyers counter that it would have been almost impossible to throw a 153-pound body, weighted with concrete anchors, over the side of a 14-foot boat without capsizing.

As an alternative to a mistrial, Geragos asked the judge to show jurors a videotaped experiment performed by the defense apparently showing that the boat would have tipped. The judge denied the motion.

Given that the boat was not in the water, “they should bear that in mind in their consideration,” the judge said. “I think this works both ways. It can work for the prosecution’s benefit. It can work for the defense’s benefit.”

Bay Area prosecutor Jim Hammer told PEOPLE, “The jury is having problems reaching agreement. This is a good sign for Geragos. He s a happy guy today.”

Hammer and other legal observers explained that by allowing jurors to “test” the boat, which is on its trailer in a nearby impound area, the judge may be leaving himself open to a strong argument for a mistrial.

The jurors, six men and six women, have been deliberating for two and a half days, and they are being sequestered in a hotel where they can only watch sports and movies on television. They can use a computer, but are not allowed to access to the Internet.

The jury must decide whether Peterson is guilty of murdering Laci and their unborn child on Dec. 24, 2002. Should the jury convict Peterson, they will have two choices before them: first- or second-degree murder. The latter would spare him the death penalty.

Second-degree murder convictions don’t require a finding of premeditation, and carry sentences of 15 years to life for each count.