By MATT APUZZO
The Associated Press
Monday, February 26, 2007; 11:30 AM
WASHINGTON -- A juror was dismissed from the trial of former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby on Monday after court officials learned she had been exposed to information about the case over the weekend.
U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton ordered the juror removed, saying "what she had exposure to obviously disqualifies her." The judge declined to say what information the juror had seen but characterized it as a misunderstanding. He has ordered jurors to avoid media coverage of the case.
Walton said the remaining jurors had not been tainted. He said he would allow deliberations to continue with 11 jurors rather than calling on one of two alternate jurors.
"They should continue with their deliberations and I will emphasize again the importance of not having contact with any outside information," Walton said.
Libby is accused of lying and obstructing the investigation into the 2003 leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity. Jurors began deliberating late Wednesday afternoon.
Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald asked that Walton call on one of two alternates, both women, who sat through the trial and are on standby. Walton said that would require deliberations to begin fresh and said he didn't want to "throw away two and a half days."
The woman who was dismissed from 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.
Walton originally worried that she had tainted the jury pool and said he would question all jurors outside the courtroom. That raised the specter of a mistrial in the case. He emerged from behind closed doors to say the remaining jurors were deliberating conscientiously.
Associated Press writer Michael J. Sniffen contributed to this report.