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The judge in Richard Scrushy's fraud trial is trying to prevent the case against the former HealthSouth CEO from winding up in a deadlocked jury and mistrial.

Responding to questions from jurors, Federal Judge Karon Bowdre instructed the panel for a third time yesterday on a pivotal conspiracy charge.

After saying that either an acquittal or a guilty verdict must be unanimous, Bowdre sent the panel back to begin a fifth day of deliberations.

The jury recessed about five hours later without a verdict. Deliberations resume this morning at 9 a.m.

Outside court, attorneys on both sides said it's too early to be worrying about a mistrial since the jury must sift through the testimony of dozens of witnesses it heard over three and a half months.

Scrushy is accused in a nearly two-point-seven (b) billion dollar earnings overstatement scheme at the medical services company.