JURY problems escalated on Wednesday in the murder trial of Everton "Beachy Stout" McDonald and his co-accused, Oscar Barnes, in the Home Circuit Court in Kingston, forcing the trial to be adjourned and the seven members discharged from the jury which was empanelled on Monday.
The matter should resume next Monday when a new set of jurors is to be selected.
McDonald and Barnes are being tried for the July 20, 2020 murder of Tonia McDonald, who was Everton's second wife.
The partially burnt body of Tonia was found slumped beside her razed motor car on the Sherwood Forest main road in Portland, with her throat slashed.
On Monday, at the start of the trial, two men who were selected to be a part of the jury refused to swear on the Bible or affirm that they would do nothing to compromise the case. One of them blatantly refused and told the judge that he would not swear on the Bible because of his religious beliefs and he also refused to give an affirmation, claiming he was of the view that he would still be swearing. Presiding Judge Chester Stamp discharged the two men and indicated that both of them would face punishment.
The two men were replaced immediately on Monday morning and the trial got under way with the first witness, a former employee of Everton, taking the stand to give testimony.
But on Tuesday there was another jury challenge, forcing the trial to be stalled when juror number four did not turn up for court. The court learned that he had serious monetary problems and could no longer participate in the process. His claims were validated by the court's registry and on Wednesday when he appeared in court he was discharged. Justice Stamp also discharged juror number two, who, it was proven, is employed overseas and cannot be absent from his job for the roughly two months that the trial is expected to last.
Attorney-at-law Christopher Townsend, who is a member of the legal team representing Everton, told the Jamaica Observer that the two jurors have problems that are insurmountable and were in no shape to properly serve.
However, he said it was just a minor setback.
"The judge conferred with the defence and prosecution and we all were in agreement that this was the course of action to be taken. We restart next Monday when the evidence will be reheard and all of what occurred before will commence again. It is a setback, in terms of the time lost, but I believe that all persons who are in the matter are dedicated to seeing the matter through. So, we are wasting no time in terms of restarting and commencing of the hearing of the evidence again," Townsend said.
Ernest Davis, the lawyer who is representing Oscar Barnes, on Wednesday appealed to Justice Stamp to again grant his client bail. Prior to the start of the trial on Monday, Barnes had been out on bail since 2021. However, when he showed up for the trial on Monday the judge revoked his bail.
According to Davis, his client got married on Sunday and his wife had not been able to spend time with him.
Davis appealed to Stamp to give consideration next Monday to his client being released on bail again. Although the prosecution recommended that he remain in custody, Justice Stamp said he will make a decision come Monday of next week.