The final act in Oliver North's Iran-Contra trial was delayed for several hours Thursday, apparently over a news report that two jurors had not admitted involvement in unrelated court actions in the past.
U.S. District Judge Gerhard A. Gesell sent word from his chambers that he would issue instructions to the jury Thursday afternoon before the panel began deliberating charges against the former White House aide.North and several of his lawyers sat at the defense table for more than an hour waiting for the start of proceedings this morning, then left the courtroom after a court officer spoke briefly with a man standing near North.
Participants in the trial returned to court briefly in late morning but were told to return at 1 p.m.
One courthouse source, asked about the reason for the delay, referred to a news story broadcast Wednesday night that two jurors and an alternate had failed to mention prior court proceedings in which they had been involved. The source spoke on condition of anonymity.
Five alternates have sat with the 12-member jury since testimony in North's trial began Feb. 21.
ABC News reported that two of the panelists, Caswell G. Hartridge, 61, and Helen G. Lynch, 37, had been named as defendants in civil litigation involving accidents in the early 1980s.
Both answered "no" on jury questionnaires asking them whether they had "ever been involved as a party . . . in any court proceedings (civil or criminal)."