Juror's illness delays trial of bounty hunters

Posted: Wednesday, April 12, 2000

The wheels of justice ground to a temporary halt Tuesday in Kenai's bounty hunter trial when word was received that one of the 14 jurors was ill.

On trial are Ronald L. Williams, David B. Cameron and Seth I. Oehler. The three are each facing three charges of third-degree assault and one count of first-degree burglary from an October 1998 incident in which they allegedly removed Ricky Welch at gunpoint from a Nikiski home.

Shortly after Superior Court Judge Jonathan Link announced the juror's illness Tuesday morning, attorneys representing Williams, Cameron and Oehler requested the court postpone the jury trial until today, with the hope that the missing juror would be well enough to continue.

District Attorney Dwayne McConnell, however, asked that the trial proceed as scheduled. McConnell pointed out the reason 14 jurors, rather than 12, had been selected was to allow for situations like this.

Judge Link's initial decision to excuse the juror and continue with the remaining 13 brought a strong reaction from the three defense attorneys.

"This is a violation of rights," shouted a standing Jim McComas, who is representing Oehler. McComas accused McConnell of not liking the juror and described the prosecution as "bogus."

"I ask the court to readdress its decision," he said.

Chuck Robinson, who represents Williams, also objected.

"The court has made a grave error," Robinson said.

John Murtagh, legal counsel for Cameron, said a one-day delay would have little effect on the length of the trial and joined McComas and Robinson in encouraging Link to reconsider.

McConnell addressed McCo-mas' accusations by pointing out he could have asked that the individual in question be excused during the jury selection process if McConnell had any objection.

After more than one recess, a meeting in the judge's chambers and a written objection from the defense team, Link chose to release the remaining 13 jurors for the day.

Just before wrapping up the day's proceedings, Link called the ill juror's family from the court room, requesting they provide him with information from a doctor relative to the juror's health and stating whether the juror could be expected to continue with the trial.

He then directed McComas, Williams, Murtagh and McCon-nell to consider options in the event the individual was unable to continue as a juror.

The trial reconvenes at 8:15 this morning.

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