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Judge halts Peterson trial

Jurors sent home early

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The Scott Peterson jury hears more taped phone conversations.
Laci Peterson
Scott Peterson

REDWOOD CITY, California (CNN) -- A California judge brought Scott Peterson's double murder trial to a sudden halt Wednesday amid an evidentiary dispute that put off cross-examination of Peterson's former mistress, Amber Frey, until next week.

Peterson defense lawyer Mark Geragos was slated to begin questioning Frey Wednesday morning, but Judge Alfred Delucchi sent the jury home after a lengthy conference with lawyers in his chambers.

Court officials later said Thursday's proceedings were canceled as well, and Frey's cross-examination is now scheduled for Monday.

Delucchi told the jury only that "a potential development in this case ... has to be checked out."

Frey's lawyer, Gloria Allred, said this latest delay is difficult on her client.

"It's frustrating. She was ready to provide her testimony this morning and that didn't happen, and that was a surprise," Allred told reporters outside the courthouse.

"She has made so many sacrifices to assist in this criminal investigation. This is one more," the attorney added.

On Tuesday, jurors heard Frey break up with Peterson in one of hundreds of recorded phone calls played in the trial.

Delucchi also ruled Tuesday that evidence about any relationships Frey had before she began dating Peterson, who had told her he was single, would not be admitted during her cross-examination.

But Delucchi said anything mentioned in the phone conversations "is fair game."

Frey began recording her conversations with Peterson in late December 2002 at the request of detectives investigating the disappearance of Peterson's wife, Laci.

In a January 19, 2003, call, Frey ripped into Peterson after she said police questioned her about her whereabouts in the days before Laci's disappearance.

"Amber, are you asking if I had something to do with this?" Peterson asked.

"You never told me you haven't," she said.

"Yes, I have," he said. "I had nothing to do with this, you know that."

"How?" she shot back. "How am I supposed to know that when I didn't even know you were currently married, you have a child on the way? How was I supposed to know?"

Frey told him she thought his relationship with her "was all a plan."

"You know where it went wrong for you, Scott, in this plan, is you didn't think the media would be so big and I'd ever learn of this," she said.

Peterson faces a possible death sentence if convicted of murder in the deaths of his wife and the couple's unborn son. Their bodies washed up on the shore of San Francisco Bay in April 2003, nearly four months after the eight-months-pregnant Laci Peterson was reported missing from their Modesto home on Christmas Eve 2002.

Frey contacted detectives after learning that her lover not only was married but a suspect in his wife's disappearance. After a month and a half of taping her conversations, she told Peterson, "I think it would be best if you and I didn't talk any more until there's a resolution."

"Is there anything you want to say before I say goodbye?" she asked during their final three-minute call on February 19, 2003.

Peterson replied, "Yes. I mean, you know, I see the reason. Oh, well, and just be well."

It was the last of 43 recordings played for jurors since Frey took the witness stand last week. Frey sat in the courtroom and listened as jurors heard nearly 12 hours of tapes. She also took the witness stand again Tuesday to describe a phone call she didn't record.

In that call, on February 10, 2003, Peterson told her she would find a birthday gift beneath a tree near a Fresno hospital. She turned the bag of gifts over to Modesto police.

CNN's Chuck Afflerbach contributed to this report.

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