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Stevens Case on Hold

Judge Emmet Sullivan temporarily dismissed the jury in the criminal trial of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) on Friday morning after one of the jurors had to leave to attend her father’s funeral in California.

Sullivan said he will speak with that juror Sunday afternoon to determine when she will be returning to Washington, D.C., and whether she is capable of continuing deliberations early next week.

Sullivan could have excused the juror from her service and replaced her with an alternate juror or allowed the jury to continue deliberations with only 11 members. But he said that he had spoke to the juror late Thursday and that she “never said anything to suggest that she was abandoning” her duty to serve on the jury.

If the juror is going to be back and ready to serve Tuesday, Sullivan said he would allow jury deliberations to resume at that time. He has planned a hearing for 6 p.m. Sunday to decide how to proceed.

Sullivan told the remaining jurors that the court would contact them Sunday night to direct them on whether they need to come to court Monday.

Sullivan appeared to be overcome with emotion at one point during the proceedings this morning. He said that during his conversations with the juror, “I extended our heartfelt sympathies to the juror and her family … that was paramount. That was more important than anything else in the conversation.”

Sullivan said, “I told her that having lost my own father a couple of years ago, I knew what she was going through.”

After describing their conversations, Sullivan said, “I left it at that and told her Godspeed …” It was at that point that the judge appeared to become overwhelmed. The courtroom fell silent and remained quiet for more than a minute.

The defense said they accepted Sullivan’s recommendation, but the government’s attorney, Nicholas Marsh, cautioned that it may be too much of a burden to put on the juror to ask her to speed her return to Washington and continue deliberations so shortly after her father’s death.

In the event that the juror cannot continue, Sullivan questioned and alternate juror who had been dismissed Wednesday. The woman said she had not spoken to anybody about the case, that she had not made up her mind about what the outcome of the case should be and that she felt she could be fair and impartial.

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