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Murder jury not under pressure, Crown says

Jurors in a murder trial gave no indication that they were under pressure to deliver a verdict, a Crown lawyer told the Court of Appeal yesterday.

Counsel for Katrina Burgess and Cleveland Rogers – half-siblings jailed for the 2006 murder of Marcus Gibbings – claimed in the Court of Appeal this week that jurors faced “undue pressure” because of the possibility of being sequestered.

But Carrington Mahoney, for the Crown, said yesterday that none of the jurors expressed any dissent to the unanimous decision when it was delivered.

He added that the judge warned the jury about the possibility of being sequestered a week before the trial’s conclusion and raised it several more times before the jury were sent out.

Mr Mahoney said the trial judge, Acting Puisne Judge Craig Attridge, had also asked jurors to speak up if they had any concerns about the deliberation process the day before they were sent out.

He added. “There is no evidence of any pressure on the jury.”

Mr Mahoney said that only one jury had been sequestered in the 16 years that he had worked on the island and that case involved seven defendants.

He added the criminal trial was fairly simple, despite the large number of witnesses.

Mr Mahoney added that prolonged deliberation did not necessarily amount to undue pressure on the jurors and highlighted earlier cases where the same argument was made.

He said he could not comment on the allegations that six jurors reversed their decisions to avoid being sequestered in a hotel as the matter was under investigation.

The claim came to light in an affidavit from a lawyer, who said one of the jurors had approached him with the story in the wake of Burgess and Rogers’ convictions.

The Court of Appeal heard the jury foreman had been interviewed about the claims and the transcripts would be before the court soon.

Prosecutors alleged at the Supreme Court trial that Burgess paid Rogers $5,000 to kill Mr Gibbings, her ex boyfriend.

The Crown claimed that Burgess lured Mr Gibbings to an apartment they once shared, where he was ambushed and stabbed to death by Rogers.

The plot came to light after two of Rogers’ ex-girlfriends told police that he had confessed his involvement in the crime to them.

The half-siblings were convicted of premeditated murder last year and sentenced to serve a minimum of 25 years behind bars, but they launched an appeal against the convictions.

Mr Mahoney maintained in the appeal court that the evidence against both defendants was strong and the witnesses supported the Crown’s version of events.

He said: “This was a simple case of luring on one hand, and on the other, a simple case of admission being made to being a party to the actual murder.”

Mr Mahoney added that all counsel were given a chance after the summation to say if there was anything they wanted to add and none raised any concerns.

He also dismissed complaints that the two defendants should have been tried separately.

Mr Mahoney said the trial judge properly “compartmentalised” the cases in his summation.

He added: “He clearly distinguished what the jury are able to use when considering the case against one appellant, and what the jury could use against the other appellant.”

But Charles Richardson, for Burgess, maintained that the two defendant’s cases had become tangled in the eyes of the jury.

He said counsel were told the jury would not be give a direction that they could use a decision against Rogers as a “stepping stone” in determining the guilt or innocence of Burgess.

Prosecutors also indicated they would not seek that direction, but the trial judge still gave such a direction.

Mr Richardson said: “When that came out it did not come out in the formal way and it didn’t occur to me that in substance that is what the judge had done.”

The hearing continues.