Deliberation in the trial of Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens was postponed this morning to accommodate a juror who is traveling to California following the death of her father.
U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan was not inclined to immediately install an alternate on the panel because he believed the jurors were well into their consideration of the evidence. The other option is going with an 11-person jury. But that path poses another problem. “If we lose another juror then we will have major problems,” Judge Sullivan said today in court. "Major problems."
Justice Department prosecutor Nicholas Marsh said today it might be a “little too much” to have the woman, Juror No. 4, rejoin the panel next week after returning from California (not Texas, as the judge indicated at a hearing yesterday). The Williams & Connolly defense team argued for postponement to accommodate the juror. The defense lawyers did not want an alternate installed on the panel. Bringing in an alternate means deliberation starts anew.
An alternate was required to report to the courthouse this morning to be available and the judge questioned the woman on, among other things, whether she has been exposed to media coverage of the case since leaving the panel Wednesday. The woman said she had not discussed the case with anyone and had not viewed media reports.
Judge Sullivan is planning to meet in court Sunday at 6 p.m. to decide how deliberations will proceed next week. The judge appears willing to accommodate Juror No. 4. “It’s significant that she didn’t say anything to suggest she was forfeiting, abandoning, giving up her duty.”
Yesterday, the jury foreman said in a note to Judge Sullivan that Juror No. 9, a female, was disrupting deliberation with “violent outbursts” and “rude, disrespectful, and unreasonable” remarks. The foreman said the woman was refusing to follow the law and rules.
But Judge Sullivan did not question the foreman and the juror to determine the nature of the “violent outbursts.” The judge observed the jurors—when he instructed the panel to treat each other with respect—and was satisfied when he saw no obvious signs of agitation and duress. The jurors had been deliberating since Wednesday afternoon.