The juror in the trial of Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens who abruptly left the panel before a verdict was reached lied when she told the court her father had died. The real reason she said she could not deliberate further? The juror wanted to attend an event in California—the 2008 Breeders' Cup World Championships at Santa Anita Park.
U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan postponed deliberation on Oct. 24 to accommodate the juror, No. 4, to determine whether she could still serve on the panel. But the juror, Marian Hinnant, 52, did not return phone calls after leaving the District. Judge Sullivan installed an alternate, and the panel reached a guilty verdict on Oct. 27.
Judge Sullivan did not let the matter go. He ordered Hinnant to appear in court this morning to answer why she failed to communicate with the court after abruptly leaving the panel. Hinnant, a sales representative with Avis rental, was accompanied by Federal Public Defender A.J. Kramer. Kramer read a brief statement in which Hinnant apologized to the court. Kramer said Hinnant's fake story about the death of her father "popped" in her head.
"Glad to see that you're fine," Judge Sullivan told Hinnant this morning.
Williams & Connolly lawyers Rob Cary and Alex Romain were barred from asking Hinnant any questions. The defense lawyers had pushed to keep Hinnant on the deliberating panel. The judge also did not let Brenda Morris, principal deputy chief of the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section, ask Hinnant a question.
In court, Hinnant rambled on about her involvement in the horse industry and about wiretaps and the drug scene in Kentucky. "I wasn't the one selling the drugs," she said. At one point she asked whether she could get her own case started. Judge Sullivan said he was "convinced" Hinnant was unable to continue deliberation. The judge did not seem inclined to levy any sanction against Hinnant, who said she did not anticipate the Stevens trial would interfere with the horse event in California.
After the hearing, Hinnant told reporters she thinks Stevens, 84, is guilty. But she did not say whether she would have voted to convict him. Stevens, she said, is "just as guilty" as other politicians. Kramer escorted Hinnant to the Judiciary Square Metro station. Hinnant was clutching a stack of papers—mainly handwritten notes—that she says are lawsuits she has tried to file over the years.
Stevens, meanwhile, the longest-serving Republican in the Senate, continues to proclaim he is a victim of prosecutorial misconduct as he fights for his seventh term. Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), a longtime Stevens friend, said over the weekend that he is confident Stevens will win Tuesday and that the convictions will be overturned on appeal. Inouye testified as a character witness for Stevens, calling him an honest man who would not intentionally break the law. Inouye has continued to urge Alaskans to "believe in Ted Stevens."