WASHINGTON — Jurors resumed their deliberations Monday in Sen. Ted Stevens' corruption trial.
U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan placed an alternate on the jury Monday to replace a juror who'd left last week for her father's funeral in California. The judge lost touch with the grieving juror, No. 4, over the weekend and couldn't determine whether she'd be available this week, so he decided Sunday to appoint the alternate.
He'd halted deliberations Friday, but he decided in a hearing Sunday night to begin again with the alternate Monday morning.
As soon as court began for the day, Sullivan brought the alternate in for a brief conversation to see whether anything had happened over the weekend that would make her unable to deliberate, and then told her to rejoin the jurors.
"We really appreciate your availability, thank you," he told her. As one of four alternates, she'd sat through the trial but was dismissed once the jury began its deliberations last week. However, she and the other three alternates were warned not to read anything about the trial or talk to anyone about it because they might still be asked back.
The judge brought in the other jurors and told them not to speculate about why juror No. 4 no longer was present. He didn't tell them about her personal situation.
He also told them they needed to start their deliberations from scratch with the alternate juror but that how they do that is for them to decide.
The jury of eight women and four men must review seven felony counts to determine whether Stevens is guilty of lying on his Senate disclosure forms about gifts, mostly home repairs from the oil-services company Veco Corp. and its former owner, Bill Allen. The Alaska Republican also is accused of accepting other gifts from other friends and failing to report them.
Although it's impossible to tell where it was in its deliberations before losing — and then regaining — a juror, the jury appears to be moving at a pretty fast clip so far. It got the case Wednesday afternoon and sent Sullivan a note Thursday afternoon asking to go home a little early and saying it had reviewed all the instructions.
Its prompt start Monday morning was a positive development for a panel that's had more than its share of theatrics since it began its deliberations. The judge took note after it left the courtroom to begin deliberating.
"Everyone was smiling. Everyone seems to be in a good mood this morning," the judge said. "No one appeared to be agitated or displeased. That's all I have to say."
On their first day of deliberations last week, the jurors asked to go home early because they were stressed and needed "clarity." The second day, 11 of the jurors complained in a note about the 12th juror and asked for her to be removed from the panel for being rude and prone to "violent outbursts with other jurors." The judge resolved the problem with a stern lecture on civility, and the jurors left Thursday afternoon seemingly in harmony.
Later that evening, juror No. 4 learned that her father had died, and Sullivan halted the proceedings until he could figure out how to handle the issue of the missing juror.
Federal juries are allowed to proceed with fewer than 12 jurors. However, while it's common to reach a verdict with just 11, it's almost unheard-of to proceed with fewer than that. Stevens' attorneys had advocated continuing with 11 rather than replacing the missing juror with an alternate.
McClatchy Newspapers 2008