And then there were 13….

The Wayne Simoes trial was down one juror today even before opening arguments began. One of the two alternates selected yesterday for the panel called Judge Kenneth Karas’ chambers early this morning to say her kids were sick and she couldn’t make it in for the trial. Karas seemed to view the news with a slightly raised eyebrow, noting perhaps she’d go back in the jury pool now and get assigned to a six-month RICO case. So now there’s only one alternate to go with the eight men and four women who are sitting on the jury. Judges usually select four alternates when empaneling a jury in a federal criminal trial, but because the Simoes case is expected to take just a week, only two alts were picked.

McKean’s fate now in jury’s hands

A Westchester jury is now deliberating the case of James McKean, a 41-year-old New Rochelle guy accused of trying to kidnap an 11-year-old girl at an Eastchester horse farm last summer. Click here to read more about the case.

The McKean trial ran into a few delays this week. Courts were closed for President’s Day on Monday, then first thing Tuesday morning, the fire alarm in the Westchester County Courthouse went off — again — and when everyone got back inside, Juror #12 asked to be let go, saying the trial was causing him financial hardship.

Judge Robert DiBella told the cash-strapped juror that he was sorry for the inconvenience, but that he made a sworn commitment to deliberate the case. Money problems, the judge said, does not disqualify you from jury duty, especially when you ask to be let go one day before closing arguments.

Right before closing arguments today, defense attorney Andrew Quinn stopped by and was chatting with McKean’s lawyer about … what I can only assume was lawyerly stuff. Quinn is a crack defense lawyer; I’ve personally witnessed two juries acquit his clients of all charges after different high-profile trials. One was the case of ex-Mount Kisco cop George Bubaris, found not guilty of causing the death of illegal immigrant Rene Perez; the other case of teenager Krystle Fernandez, acquitted of killing another teen girl in a knife fight in Cortlandt. If Quinn was giving him tips, you can bet they were good ones.

Whatever the jury’s decision, I’m predicting an emotional reaction. McKean’s parents have been fixtures in the courtroom, as have the girl’s family and supporters.

UPDATE: The jury split the verdict: acquitted of attempted kidnapping and unlawful imprisonment; convicted of child endangerment and trespassing. Sentencing set for May 15.

Problems with Juror #3

The James McKean trial (attempted kidnapping of a little girl) started more than 2 hours late today, thanks to a single juror who apparently didn’t pay attention during jury selection.

This guy just got a new job (good for him) and started training today (they flew someone in to specifically teach him whatever it is he’s doing now). He was at that new job today — when he was supposed to be at the Westchester County Courthouse on jury duty.

County Judge Robert DiBella had his staff track down this guy, who finally arrived at the courthouse at 11:30 a.m. (Court starts at 9:30 a.m.) And he told them that his new job posed a conflict. When the judge asked him why he didn’t mention this before, the chosen juror said he thought only a medical condition was an acceptible excuse to be excused from jury duty.

I need not remind you of the old adage about people who assume.

After talking to the attorneys, DiBella excused the guy and had Alternate Juror #1 take his place.

An Officer and a Juror

Actor Richard Gere had a casting call at the Brieant Federal Courthouse this morning. But the Pound Ridge resident did not  get a call back for his audition. Gere, 59, created quite a buzz at the courthouse when he arrived bright and early for jury duty. He was part of a pool being considered for a six-member panel in a civil case. Gere does have a courtroom drama on his resume (1996’s “Primal Fear,” most notable as Edward Norton’s breakout performance.) But, alas, he was not selected this morning.