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Peterson jury selection begins

Scott Peterson
Scott Peterson

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About 1,500 potential jurors for the Scott Peterson are told trial is expected to last five months.
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REDWOOD CITY, California (CNN) -- Scott Peterson introduced himself to the first 100 prospective jurors in his double murder trial as jury selection got under way.

"Hello. Good morning to you," a smiling Peterson told the panel as he and his lawyers introduced themselves Thursday morning. If Peterson does not testify in his own defense, the appearance may be the only time jurors hear him speak.

Court officials say that after the four to eight weeks of jury selection the trial could take up to five months -- six if jurors return a guilty verdict on the capital charge and are required to deliberate on a possible death sentence.

Members of the first of two jury panels to be processed Thursday -- there were 100 prospective jurors on each panel -- were given a 30-page questionnaire to fill out as Judge Alfred Delucchi outlined the responsibilities in a capital case.

"The question that you all have to ask yourself is, do you think you could ever vote to execute a human being?" Delucchi said.

Peterson, 31, is charged with two counts of murder in the deaths of his wife, Laci, and their unborn son. The former fertilizer salesman has pleaded not guilty.

The questionnaire includes questions about jurors' opinions of extramarital affairs, their familiarity with boats and exposure to news accounts about the case.

"We want to know if your mind is so polluted by what you've read that you can't sit on this jury," Delucchi said.

Laci Peterson was nearly eight months pregnant when she was reported missing on Christmas Eve 2002. Her body, and that of the couple's unborn son, washed up along the shore of San Francisco Bay in April 2003.

The bodies were found about 80 miles away from their home in Modesto but just miles from Berkeley, where Scott Peterson told police he was fishing in a boat on the day she vanished.

Laci Peterson's disappearance and her husband's arrest drew national attention, and the case was moved from Modesto to San Mateo County, in suburban San Francisco.

Jurors will not be sequestered, but potential jurors will be able to seek exemptions from service due to family circumstances, medical reasons or economic hardship.

CNN correspondent Rusty Dornin contributed to this report.

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