BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – A judge delayed closing arguments in the corporate fraud trial of fired HealthSouth Corp. (search) chief Richard Scrushy (search) on Friday, saying both sides in the case needed more time to prepare.
Separately, she questioned lawyers about the identity of anonymous sources cited in a newspaper story about the case.
Originally set for Monday, closing arguments will instead be held Wednesday at the request of both sides, U.S. District Judge Karon Bowdre said. The judge is also working on her instructions to jurors on the law and plans to begin them on Tuesday.
Deliberations will likely begin Thursday.
Speaking during a hearing, Bowdre also expressed anger over a story in Friday's editions of The Wall Street Journal that cited two unnamed lawyers familiar with the case as giving the reason for the dismissal of a juror last month.
The lawyers told the newspaper the juror was dismissed because the juror belonged to a church where Scrushy had preached. The newspaper said one of the lawyers said the juror wasn't at the church the day Scrushy preached.
Bowdre cited only "external events" on April 27 in removing the juror from the panel, which previously lost a member because of illness.
During the hastily called hearing, Bowdre had all the prosecutors and defense attorneys stand up, give their names and state whether they were the source for the story or knew who was. Everyone gave negative responses.
Bowdre, who earlier met with attorneys in her office, referred to the session as an investigation that would continue.
"We take the orders of the court and the integrity of the court very seriously," she said.
Bowdre did not give any indication that the delay was related to the investigation or the news article.
Scrushy is the first chief executive officer charged with violating the Sarbanes-Oxley (search) corporate reporting law, passed in 2002 after a string of business scandals. The judge dismissed two Sarbanes-Oxley counts, but jurors still must decide a third.
The jury also will consider 37 more counts of conspiracy, fraud, false certification of financial results to the Securities and Exchange Commission and money laundering. If convicted, Scrushy could be ordered to hand over assets worth some $278 million under forfeiture laws.
Scrushy also faces a maximum penalty of millions in fines and the equivalent of a life sentence, but attorneys say the exact range of possible punishment is impossible to compute beforehand.