Judge Declines to Dismiss Juror

Posted October 23, 2008 at 2:07pm

The judge in the criminal trial of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) called the jury back into the courtroom Thursday afternoon to remind them of their obligation to deliberate with “civility and mutual respect” after the foreman requested the dismissal of one juror who was engaging in “violent outbursts.”

The jury foreman presented a note to the judge at midday, saying that one of the jurors “is being rude, disrespectful and unreasonable,” and has “had violent outbursts with other jurors.”

The note indicated that “the jurors are getting off course.” The juror “is not following the laws and rules that were stipulated in the instructions” that the judge provided, it read.

Judge Emmet Sullivan directed the jury to cease deliberations until he could address the issue, but after discussing his options with the defense and prosecution, he decided not to dismiss the juror and not to investigate the allegations further.

Instead, Sullivan called the jury back into the courtroom to remind them of their responsibilities.

Sullivan told the jury that he recognized that “it has been a long trial,” but their job is to “consider all the evidence, all of the testimony [and] deliberate amongst yourselves … in an effort to reach a unanimous decision with respect to all the charges.” He encouraged them to show “civility and mutual respect among yourselves.”

He then sent them back to continue deliberations, saying he had simply wanted to “give you that pep talk.”

After the jury left the courtroom, he told the attorneys he was satisfied that “no one [on the jury] appeared to be agitated at all, and no one appeared to be upset with the court’s instruction.”

Sullivan also declined the jury’s request to provide any more information about how to calculate liabilities, which are required to be reported on financial disclosure forms.

The jury had written, “Please clarify the liability cost as it is not readily clear in Senate regulations.”

Stevens is charged with failing to report gifts that he received over several years, particularly tens of thousands of dollars worth of renovations that were allegedly paid for by Bill Allen, former chief executive officer of VECO.

The prosecution made the point during the trial that if Stevens intended to pay for them, then those outstanding costs would count as liabilities and should have been reported on his forms.

Sullivan at first said he would tell the jury that liabilities had to be reported if they exceeded $10,000 at any time in any given year, but following a series of discussions with the lawyers, he concluded that any ambiguity was a function of the instructions on the forms themselves, which the jury has in front of them.

He said that he would tell the jury in a written reply that, “the court cannot provide you with additional instructions or evidence.”