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Break for Buju - Artiste granted evidentiary hearing by Florida court

BY KARYL WALKER Editor - Crime/Court Desk walkerk@jamaicaobserver.com

Saturday, November 24, 2012    

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IMPRISONED reggae artiste Buju Banton has been granted an evidentiary hearing by United States Magistrate James Moody.

The artiste will be taken before the US Sam Gibbons Court in Tampa, Florida, on December 20 for the court to look into whether an admission by female juror Terri Wright to a Floridabased media house that she violated federal regulations constituted a breach of his rights.

Wright confessed that she researched aspects of the case over the Internet, during the trial, to have a better grasp of the issues when deliberations begun. She said she had secretly researched the Pinkerton Law, which was used by the prosecution to connect Banton to an illegal firearm that was found in the possession of a co-conspirator James Mack during a cocaine transaction in a police-controlled warehouse in Tampa.

Along with Wright, three other jurors will appear before the court at that hearing.

Banton was given a 10-year sentence for drug-related charges and missed being slapped with an additional five years on a gun conviction recommended by an Appellate Court due to two motions filed by his newly appointed legal team that he should be granted a new trial.

The first motion was for the judge to reconsider his prior sentence and reduce it. The second motion was for a new trial based on jury misconduct.

Yesterday, lead attorney Chokwe Lumumba told the Jamaica Observer that the ruling was a fillip to his client’s case. “It means we can demonstrate that the juror was guilty of misconduct and they should grant a mistrial,” Lumumba said.

Banton has endured two trials since his arrest in December 2009 at his Tamarac home in South Florida.

The first trial ended in a mistrial after a 12-member jury could not decide his guilt or innocence after hours of deliberation. The second trial came months after, in February 2011, and the artiste, whose real name is Mark Anthony Myrie, was found guilty.

If the court rules in his favour it could mean he could be tried three times for the same offence in light of the fact that his legal team are the ones requesting a retrial.

Banton has reportedly forked out about US$1 million in legal fees for the first two trials and Lumumba said an argument could be raised that it would be unfair to try him for a third time in light of the fact that his resources have been severely depleted.

“If the judge orders a retrial, we could make the argument that it is oppressive to Buju to try him three times. It is the judge’s call, but he has used considerable resources in the first two trials,” he said.

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