Although there was no official announcement, explanation or even an acknowledgement from the bench on Thursday during the fourth day of the Sharon Lewis vs LSU wrongful termination, sexual harassment, and retaliation federal trial, a juror has apparently been dismissed.
LSU Director of Athletics Scott Woodward began testifying in the U.S. District Court in Baton Rouge on Wednesday. Woodward’s testimony was often contentious with Lewis’ attorneys on Wednesday and interrupted numerous times by objections from LSU attorneys.
There were also several unplanned attorney/judge bench conferences that interrupted Woodward’s Wednesday testimony, causing it to extend unexpectedly into Thursday morning.
On Thursday morning, Woodward was observed several times addressing his answers to the jury instead of back towards the questioning attorney.
During bench conferences on Thursday morning, Woodward was noticeably smiling, grinning, and at least once was seen winking at several, if not all, of the 9-person all-white jury.
Around 10:15 AM Thursday, Judge Susie Morgan stopped questioning and dismissed the jury for what she termed the normal morning break.
The morning and afternoon break typically lasts 15 minutes.
However, the Thursday morning break inexplicably stretched well past that duration and the courtroom remained locked, barring reentry for anyone – another abnormality.
When the courtroom reopened and the jury was brought back in to resume Woodward’s testimony, the original nine-member jury composed of six men and three women was down to five men and three women.
No explanation was given by Judge Morgan.
The missing male juror, however, had been seen noticeably responding to a thumbs-up gesture from Woodward with a supportive hand gesture of his own prior to the break.
Civil case federal trials must maintain at least six jurors under the rules. This one is apparently now down to eight members heading into week two on Monday.
Court will not be in session on Friday (Dec. 15) after it broke for the weekend at the end of Thursday’s session around 5:40 pm.
The trial was originally scheduled to conclude on December 22.