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February 26, 2007

February 26, 2007

Libby Juror Dismissed Over Media Exposure

WASHINGTON, Feb. 26 — A juror in the perjury trial of I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, was dismissed from the panel today after acknowledging that she had had outside contact with information related to the case.

Federal Judge Reggie B. Walton said the jury’s deliberations, which began at mid-day Wednesday, could go on with 11 members on the panel. “I don’t think it would be appropriate to throw away those two and a half days,” he said, alluding to the work that jurors had done up to this morning.

The judge’s decision came over the objection of the prosecutor, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, who wanted one of two remaining alternates to be seated, bringing the jury panel back to 12. But that would have required the newly constituted jury to begin deliberations all over again, a development that the chief defense lawyer, Theodore V. Wells Jr., said would be prejudicial to his client.

Judge Walton said the problem juror’s exposure to outside information was the result of a misunderstanding rather than intentional on her part. But he said he had no choice but to dismiss her. The woman, who now lives in Washington, was a curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York for decades.

Mr. Libby is charged with obstruction of justice, lying to federal agents and perjuring himself before a grand jury amid an investigation over who made public the name of a C.I.A. operative, Valerie Wilson, whose husband, the former diplomat Joseph C. Wilson IV, was highly critical of the Bush administration’s rationale for going to war in Iraq.

Before dismissing the juror, and ruling that the 11 remaining on the panel could continue to deliberate, Judge Walton questioned them individually. He then cautioned the jurors, as he has daily over the four-week trial, to avoid contact with any case-related information from outside the courtroom.

When the trial began, there were 16 jurors — counting four alternates — but two were let go before today for reasons not having to do with the case.

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