JUST two days into the murder trial of businessman Everton "Beachy Stout" McDonald and his co-accused Oscar Barnes in the Home Circuit Court in Kingston on Tuesday, the sitting has run into jury problems.
At least three jurors who were selected for the trial have reported challenges, with the trial stalling Tuesday when defence lawyers, prosecutors and journalists waited hours for one of seven jurors to arrive in court. That juror failed to show up.
When High Court Judge Chester Stamp arrived in court to preside over the case he was told that juror number four was absent, which made it difficult for him to proceed with the matter.
Justice Stamp stood the matter down until 2:00 pm. However the jury foreman indicated that, based on what was communicated to him, juror number four would not be present in court at all on Tuesday. The judge set the matter down to resume today at 10:00 am.
Justice Stamp enquired about the whereabouts of the juror and was told that he had written a letter to the court's registrar, indicating that he had financial constraints and could no longer participate in the process.
A very composed Stamp said that jurors "must obey the law" and carry out their duties as stipulated by legislation. At the same time, the judge said: "I do not know the severity of his constraints so I do not want to prejudge."
Following that statement, Justice Stamp ordered that checks be made to find out what was preventing the juror from appearing in court, and how his financial issues could be alleviated so he can attend court.
On Monday, during jury selection, two of the jurors who were selected to participate in the process presented challenges for the court. One of them refused to swear on the Bible or give an affirmation that he will be honest during the trial. According to him, swearing on the Bible goes against his religious beliefs. Justice Stamp offered him another option, which was to make an affirmation. The juror refused, claiming that his belief was that an affirmation amounted to swearing. The other juror on Monday refused to swear on the Bible or cooperate otherwise.
Both of them, who were subsequently replaced, face punishment for refusing to take up their duties as jurors, following numerous attempts by Justice Stamp and the clerk of court to have them comply.
McDonald and his co-accused Barnes are being tried for the July 20, 2020 murder of Tonia McDonald.
The partially burnt body of Tonia, wife of McDonald, was found slumped beside her razed motor car on the Sherwood Forest main road in Portland, with her throat slashed.
The first witness in the case, who said on Monday that he had been like a son to Everton, claimed that shortly after Tonia's murder, her husband started saying that his wife had been unfaithful and that she was responsible for more than $30 million going missing from a wholesale business he operated.
The witness said that the day after the killing the wholesale was opened for business as if nothing had happened the day before.
"We opened the shop the next day after she died. He came there, but just went upstairs. He was cursing and said he didn't know where she found man and go kill off herself," the witness told the court.
The man claimed that Everton, who appeared normal, called two women into his office to check the books, while blaming Tonia for making him lose more than $30 million.
According to the witness, there was encouragement from Everton to Tonia, prompting her to play a more active role in his business. The witness claimed that after she received a scolding she started playing more of a "boss role".
"Mr Mac [Everton] told her to come to the shop and make herself useful; he said she is not supposed to just stay up at the house. The name she used to call me was Mandela. After the boss spoke to her she started showing interest in the cashiers. She accepted me as Mr Mac's right hand," the witness said on Monday.