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Juror's testimony puts new spin on Buju trial

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

Wednesday, February 20, 2013    

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A juror who sat on the 2011 drug trial in which reggae star Buju Banton was convicted, testified yesterday that the reported misconduct by foreman Teri Wright was discussed in the jury room.

Banton's attorney Chukwe Lumumba told the Jamaica Observer yesterday that eight jurors who were sequestered for Banton's second drug-related trial gave conflicting evidence about Wright's alleged misconduct.

"One juror said he knew nothing about what Wright did but another threw a spanner in the works after he said it was discussed in the jury room. Everything still hangs in the air," Lumumba said.

Banton's fate still hangs in the balance as other members of the 12-member jury gave contradicting evidence about possible misconduct by Wright, who allegedly told a reporter that she had breached a judge's order to not research any aspect of law relating to the deejay's case.

A juror misconduct hearing was held in the US Sam Gibbons Court in Tampa, Florida yesterday, as judge James Moody tries to ascertain whether the artiste was unfairly tried after Wright reportedly breached his orders.

Wright allegedly told a Florida-based journalist that she researched aspects of the case whenever she left court after each day of the trial. If the allegation is true, her action would be a direct violation of Moody's orders.

Yesterday, Lumumba said Wright had turned up in court with her computer hard drive and that Moody had ordered that a computer specialist, hired by Banton, scour it for any evidence that she had violated his order.

Banton is also facing an additional five-year sentence related to a gun charge that was brought against him after his failed bid in an Atlanta Appellate Court to have his 10-year sentence overturned.

A three-member panel of judges ruled that he be sentenced to five years for a firearm that was found in the possession of co-conspirators James Mack and Ian Thomas when they attempted to purchase 25 kilogrammes of cocaine from undercover cops in a Government-controlled warehouse in Tampa.

Thomas and Mack both pleaded guilty to that charge but Banton was not present when they attempted to buy the contraband.

The reggae icon has consistently maintained that he was entrapped by the US Government and was sentenced even though a Drug Enforcement Agent testified during his first trial in September 2010 that there was no evidence that he had ever been involved in illicit drug dealing.

"We have no idea when the next court day will be," Lumumba told the Observer.

This means Banton, whose real name is Mark Anthony Myrie, will have to languish in a Tampa jail until the judge makes his ruling.

Banton faced two trials before being declared guilty, and his legal team is hoping that he will be afforded a new trial or have his conviction thrown out based on the allegations of misconduct on Wright's part.

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