12:47 p.m., PST: REDWOOD CITY - Four prospective jurors in Scott Peterson's trial qualified this morning for final screening in May, bolstering the judge's hope to keep the case in San Mateo County.
"This morning was not a total loss," said Judge Alfred Delucchi, perhaps reflecting on Monday's dismal result when only one of 13 prospective jurors was declared suitable to sit in judgment of the accused double-murderer from Modesto.
Peterson, 31, faces the death penalty if convicted of murdering his pregnant wife, Laci, and their unborn son, Conner.
Four more people were dismissed this morning. Combined with Monday, five potential jurors moved to the final screening phase and 16 have been excused.
The four approved this morning included a grandmotherly former nurse, a young mother, a middle-aged man who said not being paid during a six-month absence from work would not pose a hardship and an unsmiling woman who "strongly disagrees" that police officers always are more truthful than other witnesses.
All four said they don't pay much attention to news.
Excused this morning were a man whose employer would pay him for only one month of the expected six-month trial, a woman who indicated Peterson should prove that he is innocent and a woman who wrote on a questionnaire that she believes Peterson is guilty. Delucchi and attorneys on both sides dismissed another woman based on her questionnaire, without elaborating.
The judge and attorneys are scheduled to screen four more jurors this afternoon. Delucchi hopes to qualify about 80 before beginning the final phase May 13 and said this morning, "We're on track."
Opening statements are scheduled for May 17.
Also this morning, Delucchi denied a media request to review jury questionnaires, saying publicity exceeding that surrounding the Charles Manson and O.J. Simpson trials would endanger Peterson's right to a fair proceeding.