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STEVENS' JURY IN DISTRESS

After peers try to oust one juror, another exits for a family illness.

WASHINGTON - After sitting through a four-week trial, the jury in Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens' corruption case had a near meltdown Thursday, the second day of deliberations.

First, 11 jurors sought to boot the 12th from the panel after they complained that she had been "rude, disrespectful and unreasonable" and had engaged in "violent outbursts."

After U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan had resolved that problem, another juror apparently left town to tend to a sick relative.

Sullivan then convened a rare evening hearing Thursday to try to keep the trial on track. He gave attorneys for both sides until this morning to offer suggestions on how to continue if the court cannot accommodate a missing juror.

The juror told officials she was rushing to catch a plane Thursday evening to take care of a serious illness in her family.

Sullivan ordered an alternate juror to be ready to join deliberations today if the issue cannot be resolved. That essentially would send the deliberations back to the beginning. The judge also could order 11 jurors to continue deliberating or delay the case until Monday.

The jurors have taken center stage in a trial that's had its share of drama. There is little indication that the problems on the jury have anything to do with the actual deliberations in the case, which involve determining whether Stevens is guilty of making false statements on his Senate financial disclosure forms.

The jury problems began midday Thursday, when jurors passed Sullivan four notes, including one about the combative juror in question. The juror, No. 9, works for the National Guard as a bookkeeper. "She is being rude, disrespectful and unreasonable," the foreman wrote.

Sullivan brought the panel of eight women and four men back into court. "You should encourage civility and mutual respect among yourselves," he said. They headed back to deliberate.

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