Empanelling a seven-member jury for the trial of the 14 people accused of murdering Major Maxwell Adam Mahama has hit another roadblock after some of the jurors Monday pleaded not to be selected for the trial.
At its sitting on April 12, 2018, the Accra High Court was able to empanel six out of the seven required jurors following the rejection of eight out of the 14 potential jurors by the accused persons.
The court was, therefore, expected to complete the jury selection process yesterday
But even before it could begin the selection process, a member of the already selected six jurors presented a letter to the court, praying to be excluded from the trial.
Although the content of the letter was not read in court, the comments of the presiding judge, Mrs Justice Mariama Owusu, after reading it suggested that the juror wanted to be excluded because she was scheduled to attend an interview for enrolment in a school.
The juror was excluded, leaving the jury with five members.
“We are not comfortable”
The court was then left to select two jurors from a group of three potential jurors to meet the requirement for a seven-member jury as stipulated by law.
The first juror, a male, was selected without any major incident, bringing the number of jurors to six, but the process to select the last juror was thrown into jeopardy when the remaining two pleaded with the court not to select them.
According to them, they were “not comfortable” being jurors in the trial and, therefore, did not want to be selected.
One of them, a male, was not selected after Michael Anim, one of the accused persons, rejected him.
The other potential juror, a female, was selected, bringing the number of jurors to seven.
But that was not the end of the drama, as she kept telling the court to exclude her from the panel, even after her selection.
The juror’s constant insistence not to be part of the jury made the prosecutor, Mrs Evelyn Keelson, a Chief State Attorney, to ask the court to exclude her.
She explained that the juror’s demeanour meant that she was not ready to be part of the trial.
“Her demeanour is not the best and I think she should be taken out,’’ she said.
Mrs Keelson’s submission was supported by Mr Augustine Obour, the lawyer for Kwame Tuffour and Joseph Appiah, two accused persons.
Counsel stated that it would be in the interest of all the parties involved in the trial for the juror to be excluded.
“It is better we go through hell today than select her and go through hell during the trial,’’ he said.
But Mr George Bernard Shaw, the lawyer for William Baah, the first accused person, and five other accused persons, took a different view and prayed the court not to exclude the juror.
He argued that per the law, a juror could not request to be excluded from a jury without providing any tangible reason.
“If we are not careful, we may reach a point where people will refuse to be jurors just because they are not comfortable. This will undermine the administration of justice,’’ he said.
After the various arguments by the lawyers, Mrs Justice Owusu asked the juror to give the court a compelling reason she must be excluded from performing her jury duties.
The juror, with a very sad face and almost in tears, answered that she was not comfortable and also “not capable’’ to be part of the jury
Mrs Justice Owusu, after a while, ruled that the juror should be excluded from the trial.
Immediately after the ruling, the juror left the jury box and rushed out of the courtroom.
The case has been adjourned to April 25, 2018 for the court to continue with the jury selection process.
Thirty-two-year-old Major Mahama, who was part of a military operation to clamp down on illegal mining activities, popularly known as galamsey, was lynched at Denkyira Obuasi in the Central Region on May 29, 2017.
The 14 accused persons have pleaded not guilty to charges such as abetment to murder, conspiracy to commit murder and murder.
Under Ghana’s legal system, their innocence or guilt is supposed to be determined not by a judge but by seven individuals selected from a group of people to form a jury.