Stevens deliberations to restart

Deliberations in Alaska Senator Ted Stevens's criminal trial will start anew today with an alternate replacing a juror whose father died, the judge decided.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan struck the juror from the panel during a Sunday hearing in Washington. The juror traveled to California on Oct. 24 to be with her family, and the judge said she hadn't responded to calls from the court seeking to determine when she could resume deliberations.

“We've reached out on numerous occasions to accommodate her and she's not responded,” Sullivan said. “I would have to say that it's unfortunate.”

The judge said that before the female alternate joins the jury today, she will be questioned on whether any factor has arisen since she was dismissed last week to prevent her from deciding the case fairly.

Stevens, 84, the longest-serving Republican in the Senate, is charged with failing to report more than $250,000 in home improvements and other gifts from Veco Corp., an Alaska oil-services company; Bill Allen, the company's founder, and other friends. Indicted in July, the senator demanded a speedy trial in a bid to clear his name before Election Day on Nov. 4.

The jury had met for about nine hours altogether since deliberations began Oct. 22.

Prosecutor Nicholas Marsh said during the hearing that the jury's discussions were “in an infancy” and that he didn't believe striking the juror would create a hardship.

Defense lawyer Robert Cary told the judge he opposed striking the juror, saying the panel shouldn't have to start its “stressful” deliberations again.

On the second day of jury discussions, Sullivan warned jurors to be civil to each other after the panel sought the dismissal of a different juror who the foreman said had “violent outbursts” and was rude and disrespectful. Sullivan kept the juror on the panel.

Polls show that Stevens, who fended off six challengers in the Republican primary in August, is in a close race with his Democratic challenger, Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich.