updated 3/4/2004 10:18:13 PM ET 2004-03-05T03:18:13

About 200 potential jurors in Scott Peterson’s double-murder trial answered questionnaires Thursday about their views on the death penalty and their opinions on extramarital affairs.

The judge started the day by introducing the defendant. “This is Mr. Peterson,” said Judge Alfred A. Delucchi as the prospective jurors sat in the courtroom gallery.

“Hello, good morning,” said Peterson with a slight smile, standing to greet them.

Then, hunched over their seats, the San Mateo County residents filled out the nearly 30-page form that attorneys for both sides will use to decide whom they want for the panel.

The questionnaire also includes such questions as whether they read Field and Stream, what stickers grace their car bumpers and whether they have lost a child.

If convicted, Peterson faces the death penalty, so the questionnaire also asks whether they are comfortable with sentencing a person to death even if the crime is the defendant’s first offense. Peterson has no criminal record.

Trial could last five months
Delucchi said jurors would not be sequestered and warned that those who are selected should not discuss the case. He said the jury would “be asked to look at some very graphic photographs” during trial, which could last five months.

Authorities allege Peterson, 31, murdered his wife in their Modesto home on Dec. 24, 2002, then dumped her body from his boat, all because he was having an affair with a massage therapist. He claims he went fishing the day she disappeared.

The questionnaire, reviewed twice in open court, has not been made available to the public. Developed by prosecutors and defense attorneys with minor editing by Delucchi, its contents were approved in court Tuesday.

Delucchi said all the questions will not immediately make sense to jurors. Experts say people are uncomfortable answering personal questions put forth in court, and lawyers must be willing to probe to be effective.

In an effort to put people at ease, Delucchi said he will allow jurors to be questioned individually out of the presence of other potential jurors. Both sides also have hired consultants, who advise lawyers about which jurors may help or hurt their case.

“The absence of an audience should make the process more relaxed,” said David Graeven, president of the San Francisco-based Trial Behavior Consulting. “It also prevents the pollution or contamination of the panel.”

The prospective jurors come from a pool drawn from a combination of the county’s approximately 327,000 registered voters and about 509,000 licensed drivers, according to the court.

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