WASHINGTON Former Illinois Gov. George Ryan on Tuesday lost a U.S. Supreme Court appeal that sought to overturn his corruption conviction on the grounds his right to a fair trial by an impartial jury had been violated.
Without comment, the justices declined to hear the appeal by Ryan, 74, a Republican who began serving a 6-1/2 year sentence in November at a federal prison in Wisconsin.
Lawyers for Ryan and another man convicted in the case argued their constitutional rights had been violated when the trial judge dismissed, after deliberations had already begun, two jurors who lied about their arrest records on their jury questionnaires.
The judge replaced the two jurors with alternates and ordered deliberations to resume.
After Tuesday's ruling, former Illinois Gov. James Thompson, head of a law firm that provided Ryan's legal defense, said he would ask President (George W.) Bush to grant Ryan executive clemency.
Ryan, who in 1998 won a single four-year term as governor, had been nominated several times for a Nobel Peace Prize because of his opposition to the death penalty.
In 2000, Ryan ordered a moratorium on executions in Illinois after 13 death row inmates were found to have been wrongly convicted. Before leaving office, he emptied the state's death row, commuting the sentences of 167 inmates to life in prison.
The jury convicted Ryan and lobbyist Larry Warner on 18 counts of racketeering, fraud and other offenses involving favoritism and kickbacks for state contracts and property leases that enriched Ryan and his friends.
A federal appeals court in Chicago upheld their convictions. In November, Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens turned down Ryan's bid to stay out of prison while he appealed his conviction to the nation's high court.
Lawyers for Ryan and Warner argued the jury's composition had been manipulated, its deliberations were flawed and the trial judge had erred in allowing the verdict when a number of jurors had been questioned during deliberations about their own possible misconduct.
The U.S. Justice Department urged the Supreme Court to reject the appeal. It said Ryan and Warner received a fair trial and the two jurors had been properly replaced.
(Editing by David Alexander and Vicki Allen)