WASHINGTON – Just when the topsy-turvy jury seemed settled down,another wrench in deliberations derailed the corruption trial Friday of Alaska Republican Sen. Ted Stevens. And as each day passes,his Nov. 4 bid for re-election looms closer.
U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan released the jury for the weekend to accommodate Juror No. 4,whose father died Thursday.
How the trial,which has now taken more than a month,proceeds is contingent on when the juror can make it back from California,where the funeral will be.
Sullivan,along with lawyers from both sides,will hold a conference call Sunday with Juror No. 4,a paralegal for a mortgage company,to find out when,or if,she will be able to return.
Then there will be a hearing at 6 p.m. Sunday to determine plans for next week.
“Everyone needs a day off every now and then,” Sullivan told the remaining 11 jurors,not filling them in on the specifics of Juror No. 4's absence.
The 84-year-old senator faces seven counts of failing to disclose $250,000 in home renovations and gifts for his Girdwood,Alaska,ski home on Senate financial forms.
It is now unclear if there will be a verdict before Alaskans head to the polls in a week and a half.
There are three options for proceedings at this point: If Juror No. 4 can return,deliberations could continue as early as Tuesday. If she cannot,an alternate could be called in to replace her. The jury could also move on with 11 members,but Sullivan seemed reluctant to resort to that.
Defense lawyer Robert Cary agreed with Sullivan's wait-and-see attitude,but prosecutors pushed for the trial to move ahead Friday with an alternate juror.
Government lawyer Nicholas Marsh said he wants the jury to review the stockpile of documents while it is “fresh in their minds.”
Just in case she is needed,Sullivan brought in the first alternate to make sure she had not discussed the case with anyone during the last few days. If the church Web site designer,Juror No. 11,replaces Juror No. 4 she would maintain the makeup of the jury – eight women and four men.
The jury's deliberations would start from scratch if an alternate were needed.
All this is the capstone of a rocky half-week of discussion for jurors.
Since receiving the case Wednesday,they have had a tense 10 hours of deliberation,at one point requesting Juror No. 9 be taken off the case.
“We the jury request that Juror number nine be removed from the jury,” a note given Thursday to Sullivan said. “She is being rude,disrespectful and unreasonable. She has had violent outbursts with other jurors and that is not helping anyone.”
Sullivan brought them into the courtroom and told them to be respectful of each other,ultimately deciding to keep the bookkeeper with the National Guard on the jury.
The judge hoped Friday would mark the end of jury issues for the case.
“If something else happens and I lose another juror,” he said,”then we've got some major problems.”