Stevens Trial Faces Another Jury Drama

Posted October 23, 2008 at 7:04pm

Federal Judge Emmet Sullivan indicated Thursday night that he may activate an alternate juror in the criminal trial of Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens (R).

Sullivan scheduled an unusual evening hearing after the only white woman serving on the panel informed the U.S. Marshal Service she needed to travel to Texas because of an ailing or potentially deceased relative.

Jurors are instructed to contact the Marshal Service with any problems, Sullivan explained.

The judge indicated he would attempt to accommodate the juror — possibly delaying deliberations until Monday — but he said the court did not know how long the juror would be absent.

“We tried to reach the juror and were unable to do so,” Sullivan said, noting only that the marshal had spoken with the juror.

The court will reconvene Friday at 9 a.m. Sullivan said that the first alternate — who is apparently another white woman – will be asked to appear in court at that time in the event her service is required.

If the juror is replaced, the alternate would have to be interviewed again by the lawyers, and deliberations in the case would have to start over. Following a private conference requested by Stevens’ attorneys, the judge instructed both sides to prepare arguments about the prospect of proceeding with an 11-person jury.

Stevens is charged with seven counts of filing false financial statements over six years to conceal the receipt of more than $250,000 in gifts.

Juror deliberations in the case in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia began Wednesday, a month after the trial began.