PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A judge overseeing the trial of Ammon Bundy and six others accused in the armed occupation of a federal wildlife refuge dismissed a juror Wednesday after his impartiality was questioned by a fellow juror.
U.S. District Judge Anna Brown replaced the juror with an alternate, and deliberations were placed on hold until Thursday so the woman could travel from central Oregon.
Jurors who had been deliberating for days must start over, setting aside any conclusions they may have already drawn. The panel is now comprised of nine women and three men.
"It's a new jury, a new day, a new start," Brown said.
Bundy's defense attorney filed a court motion early Wednesday asking the judge to dismiss the juror. Lawyer Marcus Mumford said the court had not adequately investigated concerns about the juror's impartiality that emerged Tuesday in a note sent to the judge by another juror.
Juror No. 4 wrote: "Can a juror, a former employee of the Bureau of Land Management, who opens their remarks in deliberations by stating 'I am very biased ...' be considered an impartial judge in this case?"
The juror in question, Juror No. 11, worked 20 years ago as a firefighter for the BLM.
The occupiers are charged with conspiring to prevent BLM employees from doing their jobs at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in southeast Oregon.
The group seized the refuge Jan. 2 and held it for 41 days, protesting federal land policy and the imprisonment of two ranchers who clashed with the BLM.
During jury selection, the man said his past employment would not prejudice his views.
Brown questioned the man again Tuesday and ruled that he could remain on the jury after she found that his views had not changed on his ability to remain impartial.
Brown switched her stance overnight, deciding the juror had to go.
She brought the entire jury into the courtroom and broke the news to Juror No. 11, who nodded but had little other reaction.
Mumford, who has repeatedly clashed with the judge during the trial, praised the decision outside the courtroom.
"I know that a lot people think we have our differences, and I guess we do, but I will tell you she wants to get it right every time," Mumford said.
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