Drama paved the way to Sen. Stevens verdict

/ Source: The Associated Press

Jury deliberations are normally a staid and secretive process.

Not at Sen. Ted Stevens' trial.

Since jurors began deliberating the Alaska Republican's fate Wednesday, the case has been marked by distractions. They complained of stress and violent outbursts in the jury room. They tried to kick one of their own off the panel. They twice asked to go home early.

Finally, just when things seemed to be calming down, one of them vanished.

Monday morning, all signs suggested jurors were days away from a verdict.

First, a judge put an alternate juror on the panel and ordered jurors to start their deliberations over. Then, jurors emerged to note a goof in Count Two of the government's seven-count indictment.

"I think their observation is absolutely correct," U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan said, remarking about the gaffe that both prosecutors and defense attorneys had missed. "This jury is very perceptive. They aren't missing anything."

A cross-section of city's working class
Jurors broke for lunch and then, all of a sudden, there was a verdict: Guilty on all seven counts that Stevens lied about receiving $250,000 in home renovations and gifts from a millionaire oil contractor.

In a city where it's not uncommon to see two or three lawyers on a jury, Stevens was judged by a cross-section of the city's working class: a third-grade teacher, a hospital security guard, a museum gift store worker, a student.

Led by their foreman, a drug rehabilitation counselor who said during jury selection that he'd once been "a participant in the criminal justice system," the jury of eight women and four men provided unusual drama with each note they passed.

A dysfunctional jury is normally a good jury for a defendant, because it makes it harder for jurors to reach a unanimous verdict. Without one, the case ends in a mistrial. Almost immediately, it appeared that's where this jury was heading.

Within hours of getting the case, deliberations went awry. Jurors sent a note saying that things had become "kind of stressful" and asking that they be allowed to go home for "a minute of clarity."

A day later, 11 jurors asked that the 12th be sent home.

"She has had violent outbursts with other jurors, and that's not helping anyone," jurors wrote.

Juror No. 4 left the deliberations
Then Thursday night, juror No. 4, a licensed paralegal who works for a mortgage company, called the court and said her father had died. She rushed to California, saying she could resume deliberating the next week. Since then, however, court officials have been unable to reach her.

"I think we've been more than reasonable," Sullivan said. "She has, for whatever reason, chosen not to communicate further with the court."

Defense attorneys asked the judge to let 11 jurors continue deliberating but Sullivan tapped an alternate. None of the jurors was told what happened to juror No. 4 or why she was being replaced.

Any hopes that jurors might shed some light on their deliberations were dashed Monday. Minutes after the verdict was read, Sullivan emerged with one final word from the jury:

"The jurors have unanimously told me that no one has any desire to speak to any member of the media," Sullivan said. "They have asked to go home and they are en route home."