Wecht defense objects to excusing sick juror

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Attorneys for Dr. Cyril H. Wecht this afternoon filed an emergency motion asking a judge to vacate his order excusing a juror who fell ill yesterday afternoon.

"The defense strongly objects to the removal of Juror No. 1 and to the hasty procedure employed by the Court to remove Juror No. 1," attorney Jerry McDevitt wrote.

"The hasty removal of Juror No. 1 was, under the circumstances here, completely unwarranted on the existing record and extremely prejudicial to the defense."

Mr. McDevitt asked District Judge Arthur J. Schwab to temporarily halt deliberations until further details are available about the juror's situation "in the form of verifiable information from his attending physician on his condition and ability to participate in and conclude deliberations."

The male juror took ill yesterday about 25 minutes before deliberations were to end for the day. A nurse was brought in to tend to the man. The juror asked to be excused because he and his doctor felt that the stress from the deliberations would affect his medical situation, which was not disclosed.

While meeting with attorneys this morning in his courtroom, Judge Schwab said he was inclined to excuse the juror and continue deliberations with 11 jurors, which is permissible under Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. He gave both sides five minutes to discuss the matter.

The government supported the judge's suggestion, but Mr. McDevitt objected, asking the court to wait another day so the juror could have more medical tests and another 24 hours to reflect on whether he could return to the jury.

Judge Schwab then excused the juror and ordered the jury to continue with 11 members.

Dr. Wecht is charged with 41 counts of wire fraud, mail fraud and theft from an organization receiving federal funds. Prosecutors presented 44 witnesses over seven weeks. Today is the eighth day of jury deliberations.

More details in tomorrow's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.


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