Federal Back at Work

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A federal court jury was back at work Sunday on a mountain of exhibits and testimony in the government's case against an attorney accused of offering money in exchange for favorable rulings from three judges, including a member of the Mississippi Supreme Court.

U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate denied a defense motion for a mistrial after a second juror, concerned about a daughter who suffers from epilepsy, asked to be excused.

Wingate declined to excuse the juror, agreeing, however, to allow her to make calls home to check on her daughter.

Michael Crosby, the lawyer for defendant Wes Teel, asked for the mistrial.

Crosby argued that after a juror was removed Saturday because of poor health, others jurors, knowing alternates were available, might succumb to pressures both inside and out of the jury room to get off the jury.

He says a juror who held a minority position, and under pressure by the majority of the jury change positions, might allow a personal problem to intensify and decide to "pass the buck onto the next juror."

Wingate says the woman had indicated during jury selection that she had some family problems but had agreed to stay on. Wingate says Crosby was only speculating.

The jury has heard testimony over three months in the trial of Gulf Coast attorney Paul Minor, one of the state's more politically active lawyers.

Minor is accused of offering cash, loans and gifts to secure favorable decisions in cases before Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz Junior and former Gulf Coast judges John Whitfield and Teel.

All four defendants have pleaded not guilty to bribery and fraud charges. Minor has pleaded not guilty to an additional count of racketeering.

The defendants have said the charges are politically motivated.