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Santa excused from serving in Morrison case

December 18, 1997

JAY, Okla. (AP) _ Santa Claus was given a judge’s OK to skip jury duty in the drunken driving trial of former heavyweight boxer Tommy Morrison.

Delaware County Judge Alicia Littlefield excused a man Wednesday who identified himself as Santa during jury selection and told the judge that finding a substitute for his job would not be easy.

``It’s hard to get a replacement this time of year,″ he said.

Morrison, 28, is on trial for a chain-reaction traffic accident that injured three people in August.

Prosecutors charged the boxer with four counts: driving under the influence; carrying a firearm while under the influence of liquor; unlawful transportation of an opened container of alcoholic beverage; and following too closely.

Santa spoke up when the judge asked potential jurors if there were any reasons they would not be able to serve two or three days.

``Will we be finished each day in time for me to be in Adair by 4:30?″ the man asked. ``I’m Santa Claus and my shift starts at that time.″

Littlefield asked attorneys on both sides if they had any objections to excusing Santa Claus. Morrison’s attorney, Leonard Logan, said, ``Far be it from me ...″

``To be a Scrooge,″ Littlefield interjected.

After seating a jury, the attorneys presented opening statements and the prosecution called two witnesses who testified about Morrison’s behavior before and after the accident.

Assistant district attorney Barry Denney anticipates the trial will take at least the next two days.

Morrison also faces civil suits in the accident that injured Karl Shklar, Lora Lee Scroggins and her 12-year-old daughter, Pamela Scroggins.

The former heavyweight champion, whose hometown is Jay, retired from the ring in February 1996 after learning he tested positive for the virus that causes AIDS. He later returned to pro boxing for one fight and gave the proceeds to charity, saying he felt certain the disease could not be spread in the ring.

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