WASHINGTON A federal judge avoided a potential mistrial in the CIA leak case today by dismissing a juror and sending the other 11 back to continue deliberating the fate of former White House aide I. Lewis Scooter Libby.
U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton said the juror had seen or read something over the weekend about Libby s trial.
What she had exposure to obviously disqualifies her, the judge said.
He did not say what the juror had seen but characterized it as a misunderstanding.
He has ordered jurors to avoid media coverage of the case.
Walton originally feared several jurors were tainted, raising the specter of a mistrial in the politically charged case. Libby is accused of lying and obstructing the investigation into the 2003 leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame s identity.
After questioning jurors behind closed doors, however, Walton said the remaining seven women and four men were not affected. Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald Walton asked the judge to call on one of two alternates, both women, who sat through the trial and are on standby.
But Walton said that would require deliberations to begin fresh and said he didn t want to throw away two and a half days of discussions. Instead, he sided with Libby s lawyers and allowed deliberations to continue with 11 jurors something allowed under federal law in such situations.
They should continue with their deliberations and I will emphasize again the importance of not having contact with any outside information, Walton said.
The woman who was dismissed from the jury is an art history expert and scholar who formerly served as a curator of prints at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She was also the only juror who did not wear a red T-shirt as part of the jury s Valentine s Day greeting to the court.
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