A juror in the trial of four senior Sun journalists accused of plotting to pay public officials for stories has been discharged after "feeling under a great deal of pressure", a court has heard.
Head of news Chris Pharo, ex-deputy news editor Ben O'Driscoll, reporter Jamie Pyatt and former managing editor Graham Dudman are on trial at Kingston Crown Court (pictured, Google) in south west London, accused of conspiring to commit misconduct in public office.
Prosecutors have described a culture of corruption "on a grand scale" at the newspaper and said the men used pay-offs to "steal a march" on their competitors.
The defendants deny all the charges and claim they were "fed to the wolves" by News International to protect the company's reputation in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal.
Stories were said to have involved details about Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe, pop star Mick Hucknall and murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, while information was allegedly sold to the newspaper by public officials, including police and prison staff, the court has heard.
After eight days of deliberations by the jury following the three-month trial, Judge Richard Marks QC said yesterday that one member of the panel had been discharged after complaining of feeling unwell due to the "stress of the situation".
He told the jury: "I was made aware that one of your number felt unwell and felt under a great deal of pressure and stress from the situation that you are all in and indicated, as you may possibly be aware, he felt unable to continue.
"I asked the court clerk to speak to him and, as a result of that, I have come to the conclusion it is not right that he remains on the jury.
"I have therefore discharged him from the jury."
The jurors, who were earlier told they could return majority verdicts in the case, were then asked if there was a "realistic prospect" of verdicts being reached on the charges.
After a brief adjournment, the remaining eight men and three women returned to court before the jury foreman said they wanted to continue their deliberations today.
He said: "We decided we would like to come back tomorrow, given the change in dynamics, with one of our members now discharged.
"We believe the deliberations won't take a long time. We want to check we are all comfortable with where we are."
Pharo, 45, of Sandhurst in Berkshire, faces three counts of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office. Dudman, 51, of Brentwood in Essex, Pyatt, 51, of Windsor in Berkshire, and O'Driscoll, 38, also of Windsor, remain charged with two counts each of the same offence.
Last Friday, the Sun's picture editor John Edwards and former reporter John Troup were cleared of conspiring to commit misconduct in public office.
O'Driscoll and Dudman were also found not guilty of one similar charge but await verdicts on the remaining counts they face.
The jury was sent home for the day and told to continue their deliberations tomorrow.