Sick juror delays opening statements in John Wiley Price corruption trial

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Thursday was supposed to be the day when the government would lay out its public corruption case against John Wiley Price. But health related issues with jurors pushed the trial calendar off its schedule even before it begins.

In the end, only the lengthy reading of the 107 page indictment against price and others was read in court on Thursday.

The morning got underway with Judge Barbara Lynn telling the court a woman on the jury had a serious health matter and was in the hospital. Price's and government attorneys took more than an hour to agree on which alternate would replace the sick juror.

“I don’t think the dynamics within the jury pool change, but what does change is at this point any other missing juror could constitute a serious problem,” said attorney Nick Oberheiden, who is observing the trial proceedings.

The judge wanted to have opening arguments from the prosecutor today and defense later, but defense attorneys said no. Judge Lynn finally decided no opening arguments until Monday because another juror has health care issues with her mother on Friday.

Oberheiden agrees the jury needs to hear opening arguments from both sides on the same day.

“If the jurors hear only the government today, it could create some form of prejudice. It would sink in, not the arguments, but what the government has been presenting today would sink in -- and then it may be more difficult for the defense to come back and essentially present their side of the story,” Oberheiden said.

Judge Lynn said several times after postponing opening arguments that Monday could be at risk as well. The juror with health care issues for her mother had initially asked to be excused until Wednesday.

Price is accused of taking nearly $1 million in bribes from businesses and in return helping them win county contracts. His longtime assistant Daphney Fain and political consultant Kathy Nealy are also accused of taking part in the scheme.

Despite the complexity of the case, it only took one day for attorneys to pick a jury earlier this week. A pool of 70 people was narrowed down to 10 women and two men, with four alternatives who will sit through possibly four months of testimony.

If convicted on multiple charges, Price is facing up to life in prison. Nealy will be tried separately.

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