Published February 26, 2007
WASHINGTON – One of the CIA leak trial jurors was dismissed Monday because of media exposure to the case, and the jury will continue with 11 members as it determines whether former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby lied to federal investigators.
The remaining jurors completed a fourth day of deliberations without returning a verdict and will come back Tuesday to continue their work.
The jury was set to begin its fourth day of deliberations on five felony counts against Libby when U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton called the parties to the case into the courtroom to say he'd learned of the possible tainted juror.
Walton said that "based upon acknowledgment that she did have contact with information in the case," he said, it "obviously disqualifies her."
He did not specify what information she had come in contact with but said she did not intentionally seek the information.
Walton's announcement led to a flurry of activity inside and outside the courtroom. Walton spoke with members of the jury and then asked lawyers to present arguments on whether to substitute the dismissed juror with an alternate.
Libby's attorney, Theodore Wells, argued that bringing in one of the two alternate jurors would be prejudicial against Libby because the jury would have to start fresh with deliberations. They've already deliberated for two and a half days.
Chief prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald argued in favor of seating one of the alternate jurors.
The jury has been under orders to avoid reading, listening to or watching news coverage about the trial because of the possibility of tainting evidence presented in court to the jury. The jury has been provided copies of newspapers screened by court employees who removed trial coverage from the papers before giving them to the jurors.
After Walton agreed to dismiss the juror and continue with the 11-member jury, he instructed the remaining members to continue to avoid media contact.
"Let me just ask, before you go back, whether any of you have kept yourself isolated from any outside information in this case," Walton asked.
When Walton asked for a show of hands, all the jurors raised their hands. He then said that he meant they should only raise their hands if they'd been exposed to outside information. The group laughed and they all put their hands down.
The judge then asked them to proceed with their deliberations.
The dismissed juror — known to the public only as Juror No. 1473 — grew up in New York City, has a doctorate degree in art and previously worked as a curator in Manhattan. During jury selection, she told lawyers and the judge that she had heard circumstances surrounding the case through the news.
She said she regularly reads The New York Times and The Washington Post about twice a week, but she did not watch NBC's "Meet the Press." The weekly news show is hosted by key prosecution witness Tim Russert.
Under questioning by Walton before oral arguments began, the juror said she could put aside what she heard in the media in deciding Libby's fate, and she had no opinions about his guilt or innocence.
Libby, also former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, faces five felony charges of obstruction and perjury.
In addition to obstruction of the leak investigation, Libby is charged with lying to the FBI and a grand jury about how he learned of and whom he told about CIA employee Valerie Plame.
Prosecutors say he concocted a story to avoid losing his job for disclosing classified information to reporters without authorization. Libby said he gave investigators his best recollection of what happened and any errors resulted from memory flaws. Plame's status as an undercover operative has never been established.
Libby could face up to 30 years in prison if convicted on all five felony charges.
The jury of eight women and four men from the District had not been heard from since requesting pictures of the witnesses and some office supplies.
Last week, the jury requested a large flip chart, masking tape, Post-it notes and a document with pictures of the witnesses.
FOX News' Ian McCaleb and Michael Levine and The Associated Press contributed to this report.