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Two jurors tossed for drinking, leaving no alternates for Knutsen v. Dillingham trial

Carrie Nick, Contessa Berlin both failed to show up on time for jury duty Thursday morning, and both had been drinking. Judge Heath ordered each repay their airfare, hotel, and other costs from the lengthy trial.

DILLINGHAM: The trial of Knutsen v. Dillingham hit a bump in the road Thursday when two women failed to show up for jury duty.

With the jury out of the room, Judge Greg Heath told the parties he had received word that one of the women had spent the night in jail – in protective custody – and the other was apparently wandering the streets. The court clerk found her at a unit in HUD housing.

Heath told the attorneys he would likely toss them both from the jury and fine them.

"You get sanctioned if you don't do your duty. It's going to cost you," he explained.

Carrie Nick and Contessa Berlin, both from Togiak, were eventually brought into court by a state trooper, who gave each a breathalyzer. Nick blew a .076, and Berlin a .229.

Judge Heath explained why they were being sent home, and that each would be required to pay the state back for the airfare, hotel nights, food and other costs associated with their service since Aug. 21. The court said that might be a couple thousand dollars.

The estate of Fred Knutsen is suing the city, claiming police officers and first responders were negligent in preventing the 25-year-old's drowning death at the harbor on Aug. 21, 2012. Originally 15 jurors were seated to provide three alternates. One man was dismissed on the first day of arguments for falling asleep, and Thursday's dismissals meant that the final deliberating panel had been picked.

Heath told the remaining 12 jurors that the trial, which will continue after the holiday weekend, depended on them showing up and staying out of trouble.

Privately to the attorneys, with the jurors out of the room, Judge Heath put it more bluntly:

"This sucks."

Reach the author at dave@kdlg.org or 907-842-5281.