By Joe Nelson, San Bernardino Sun
and Lori Fowler, The Sun
Posted: 10/01/13, 7:27 PM PDT |

The federal government shutdown was attributed Tuesday to the declaring of a mistrial in the case of a San Bernardino man who sued two San Manuel tribal members convicted in a murder plot against him.

A juror, a federal employee, told Judge Michael A. Smith Tuesday he could no longer serve because his employer was no longer paying him for jury duty due to the government shutdown. Smith granted the juror’s request for dismissal, making him the fifth juror to be dismissed during the 7-month trial due to personal hardship.

It left only 11 jurors and Smith’s hands were tied.

“We cannot proceed. The court is faced with no alternative but to declare a mistrial,” Smith said.

The jury began deliberating in the final phase of the trial, the punitive damages phase, on Sept. 25. In July, the jury awarded plaintiff Leonard Epps $4.5 million in compensatory damages.

Epps sued San Manuel tribal members Stacy Nunez-Barajas, 30, and her brother, Erik Barajas, 40, in 2008 after learning of the murder plot that was hatched against him by the Barajases and their affiliates in the Mexican Mafia, Salvador Hernandez and his brother, Alfred Hernandez.

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