Jury deliberations in the criminal trial of Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens (R) will begin anew Monday with an alternate juror, after the judge in the case excused one panelist Sunday night.
In an unusual Sunday hearing in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Judge Emmet Sullivan ruled that a juror who has been absent from the courthouse since Friday to attend her fathers funeral in California would be removed from the jury.
An alternate juror, a white woman, will begin to serve on the panel Monday morning, a decision that will require the jury to begin its deliberations from scratch.
Stevens attorneys objected to the ruling, asserting that the court should wait until Monday afternoon to see whether the absent juror would be able to continue.
Sullivan denied that request, noting that court personnel had attempted to contact the juror Friday and Sunday without success.
I think weve been more than reasonable in attempting to reach out, Sullivan said, later adding, We have four alternates for this reason.
Sullivan also denied a request by Stevens defense team to proceed with an 11-member jury, an option that would allow deliberations to continue from the point jurors had reached last week and not force them to start over.
If we proceed with 11 and another juror has to be excused then we have a major problem, Sullivan said. A 10-member jury would likely trigger a mistrial, according to legal experts.
Stevens, who appeared in court Sunday donning a bolo tie, is charged with seven counts of filing false financial statements to conceal the receipt of more than $250,000 in gifts over an eight-year period.
The trial is preventing the 84-year-old Senator from spending any time in Alaska, where he faces a tough re-election contest against Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich (D). Several political experts believe that Stevens ability to win re-election in nine days depends on whether he is convicted.