05/27/2004 at 05:00 PM EDT
Six men and six women – including a high school coach, a former airport screener and a retired utility worker – made the cut in a Redwood City, Calif., courtroom on Thursday and will sit in judgment of whether Scott Peterson killed his pregnant wife and their unborn child.
Opening statements in the case will begin Tuesday morning. The Associated Press reports that in addition to the 12 jurists, who appear to range in age from their 20s to 60s, six alternates (three men, three women) also were chosen.
The rapid-fire process was derailed briefly when one of the original 12 jurors was promptly excused after saying he would likely lose his salary during the trial, which is expected to last six months. It wasn't discussed why he waited so long to announce that conflict.
The panelists were picked from a pool of nearly 1,600 prospective jurors during the past nine weeks. All but 76 faced dismissal for various reasons, from work situations to opposition to the death penalty, to expressing opinions that Peterson is guilty.
Shortly after jury selection, Judge Alfred A. Delucchi helped Peterson's case by agreeing to allow contested testimony from one of Peterson's neighbors which defense lawyers hope might create reasonable doubt as to who killed Laci Peterson.
Prosecutors assert that the 31-year-old former fertilizer salesman killed his wife in Modesto on or around Dec. 24, 2002, and dumped her body in San Francisco Bay. (Their bodies washed onto the shore of San Francisco Bay in April 2003, not far from where Scott Peterson said he had spent Christmas Eve morning on his fishing boat.)
The defense insists that someone else killed Laci.