WASHINGTON — Juror No. 4 in Sen. Ted Stevens’ federal corruption trial, otherwise known as Marian Hinnant, did not leave to attend her father’s funeral in California, as she told the judge.
Instead, Hinnant had a plane ticket to see the Breeder’s Cup at the Santa Anita race track and didn’t want to miss it, she told the judge this morning, in what sounded like completely irrational and perhaps even delusional remarks.
Her lawyer, federal public defender A.J. Kramer, tried to keep her from saying much in court, telling the judge only that "her state of mind was such that she had to go to California."
"She apologizes to the court. In fact, her father did not die," Kramer said. "The story about her father was just one that popped into her head."
But Hinnant cut in, and in a thick Kentucky drawl, gave a rambling, incoherent and baffling monologue about her former employers in the horseracing industry in Kentucky. She mentioned drugs, wiretaps and horseracing, but made little sense.
"I’m not the one who was selling the drugs, I’m not the one who was doing the drugs," she said.
What is there to say?
First, how did this woman get onto the jury in the first place? I have never seen a panel of more than 20 potential jurors that did not include at least one person who did not seem to be in the right mindset to serve. That is not to say that they were crazy or should have been institutionalized, but that they did not appear to be in a place where they could effectively apply their reason and intellect to the circumstances.
Some people are very candid about that — some have just started medication, some are going through very tough times, and some freely admit they do not believe themselves competent to sit in the judgment of others. For others, though, usually lawyers on both sides are on the lookout for these types of jurors and will agree to strike them without much fanfare.
How this woman managed to get on the jury and serve all the way through, after examination by both sets of lawyers and the judge, is beyond me. It usually only takes a few minutes before some sort of "baffling monologue" reveals the situation.
Second, although the reports are not, to me, entirely clear, she was likely the cause of the initial acrimony during deliberations. Perhaps she was encouraged by the other jurors to leave.
Frankly, though it’s disturbing to see another’s fate in the hands of a "delusional" juror whose mind was at the horsetrack, I find the thought that she was pushed out of the jury comforting. One of the reasons we have jury trials is the hope that the combined reasoning of the group will exceed that of any individual or even the sum of the individuals, and it would not surprise me at all if the rest of the jury — even before agreeing on a verdict — had agreed that this juror was going to be a problem and needed to be removed from the deliberations. Indeed, maybe they were able to prevail upon her to remove herself.
Perhaps we will know more in time.