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Judge asks Stevens jurors to get along

October 24, 2008|associated press

WASHINGTON — A federal judge warned jurors at Sen. Ted Stevens' corruption trial Thursday to be courteous and respectful to each other after the panel's leader described "violent outbursts" that threatened to derail deliberations. And one juror apparently left town to tend to a sick relative.

Before quitting for the day, 11 members of the 12-person jury asked U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan to dismiss a female juror, describing her in a note as rude, disrespectful and unreasonable.

"She has had violent outbursts with other jurors, and that's not helping anyone," said Sullivan, reading the note publicly to Stevens (R-Alaska), his lawyers and prosecutors in an afternoon session.

Sullivan rejected suggestions to question the jury foreman and the accused juror. Instead, he brought the panel of eight women and four men into the courtroom for what he called a "pep talk."

"You should encourage civility and mutual respect among yourselves," he told them.

Sullivan later convened a rare evening hearing to try to keep the trial on track. He gave attorneys for both sides until this morning to offer suggestions on how to continue if the court cannot accommodate a missing juror. One juror told officials she was rushing to catch a plane Thursday evening to care for an ailing relative.

Sullivan ordered an alternate juror to be ready to join the panel today if the issue cannot be resolved. That would send the deliberations back to the beginning. The judge also could order the remaining 11 jurors to continue deliberating -- shrinking the size of the jury -- or delay the case until Monday.

Stevens, the longest-serving Senate Republican, is charged with lying for years on Senate financial disclosure documents to conceal $250,000 in home renovations and other gifts.

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