Talk-show host booted again, this time by choice
By Kevin McCallum - Greenwich Time
NORWALK -- Judge John Kavanewsky Jr. heard a lot of excuses yesterday from area residents trying to avoid serving on the jury for the Michael Skakel murder trial.
But only one claimed to be "irreplaceable."
Former financial talk-show host Louis Rukeyser, a Greenwich resident, told Kavanewsky he could not serve on the jury because, as editor of two financial newsletters, he was irreplaceable.
"It's a one-man band," Rukeyser said of his monthly publications, "Louis Rukeyser's Wall Street" and "Louis Rukeyser's Mutual Funds." "There's no one else to do it."
Rukeyser's semicelebrity status added to the carnival atmosphere of the first day of jury selection at state Superior Court in Norwalk.
More than 40 members of local and national media, including author Dominick Dunne, crowded the courtroom. Television crews and newspaper photographers filled the rear parking lot.
To make his case for being excused from the jury, Rukeyser told the judge that, in addition to his newsletters, he had for 32 years hosted his own television show, "Wall $treet Week With Louis Rukeyser."
But he recently was "summarily ousted" from the show, Rukeyser said.
He is busy working with his lawyers to bring a "major civil action" against those responsible for his ouster, he said.
Rukeyser was fired late last month by the show's producer, Maryland Public Television, after a dispute over plans to reduce his role, according to published reports. Executives tried to replace Rukeyser as host and make him a commentator. Rukeyser initially said he would finish his contract, which was to expire in June.
But after Rukeyser mentioned during a broadcast that he intended to start a new program, he was fired. His last show was March 22, according to Maryland Public Television executives.
Before questioning prospective jurors, Kavanewsky said jury duty is one of the foundations of our legal system and of democracy, and asked potential jurors to keep that in mind before asking to be excused.
Kavanewsky asked Rukeyser whether serving on the jury would be a "truly severe unchangeable hardship." Rukeyser said it would, and he was excused.
"That's a classic Fairfield County jury pool for you," said Michael Sherman of Stamford, Skakel's attorney. "You've got blue-collar people here, but you've also got CEOs and (celebrities)."
Minor glitches marred the first day of the long-awaited trial, said Rhonda Stearly-Herbert, spokeswoman for the state Judicial Department. Two satellite news trucks parked over a curb, for which their networks were "strongly admonished," she said.
State Police Sgt. Frank Perillo said the media was generally well-behaved, except for an incident at about 10:30 a.m., when a shoving match erupted over camera location.
"I guess you could call it a case of camera rage," Perillo said.
No charges were filed in the incident, and the two camera operators were "dusted off" and reprimanded, Perillo said.