No one thought that the Peterson jury would have an easy time coming to a verdict. But it now looks as if even that dour view might be too optimistic. After just 4½ days of deliberation, the panel of six men and six women was rocked when Judge Alfred Delucchi booted juror No. 7 off the panel—and announced that the jury would have to begin deliberating all over again, with an alternate in place. According to a court source, during deliberations it was learned that the juror—in violation of court rules—had earlier conducted some "research" about the case on her own. "There are evidently some entrenched positions right now in the jury room," says trial consultant Richard Matthews, "and this is not going to help smooth those over."

In a seemingly separate issue, the day before the dismissal the judge had summoned the jurors into court after the jury foreman sent him a note. The judge sternly admonished the panel, "Remember...you are to be impartial judges of the facts." It wasn't clear what had prompted the lecture, but there was immediate speculation that one or more jurors could be refusing to keep an open mind and that the group was drifting toward deadlock. "It was a clear indication that there is a problem," says Bay Area attorney Daniel Horowitz. "The judge gave them a little nudge."

As for the newest juror, she's a thirtyish bank employee and a mother of four with nine tattoos. When asked about the tattoos during the jury-selection questioning in April, she replied, "I know what it's like to be judged." She also made a point of emphasizing her independence. "I guess I like to debate," she said. Moreover, she insisted that she would maintain an open mind no matter what. "You have to be able to listen to anything," she told the court. "This is somebody's life."