Missing jury disturbs Misick’s legal team

| 26/01/2016 | 0 Comments
Cayman News Service

Michael Misick

(CNS): Lawyers defending the former premier of the Turks and Caicos Islands, Michael Misick, raised concerns about the missing jury as the case against their client opened last week. The corruption trial is taking place in front of a single judge because the defendants have been denied the right to a jury. Andrew Mitchell QC began his opening statement last week presenting the crown’s case against Misick and his eight co-defendants for allegedly abusing a crown land scheme between 2003 and 2009 for their own financial gain.

The crown’s case is that while he was in office, Misick, along with other government ministers and local businessmen, made millions of dollars by abusing a crown land scheme designed to benefit the local TCI population.

The legal case against Misick, the former leader of the Progressive National Party (PNP), follows an investigation by UK prosecutors, prompted by a public enquiry by Sir Robin Auld which found endemic corruption throughout the TCI government. That led to the suspension of local democracy and the imposition of direct rule of the territory by the British government. The case has taken years to reach the courtroom, and regardless of the controversies about the missing jury and allegations of bias, it is being heard by Justice Paul Harrison, a former president of Jamaica’s appeal court, sitting alone against the wishes of the defendants.

One of Misick’s lawyers said this week that she was “most alarmed” by the absence of a jury in this case. “I find it deeply disturbing that the fate of the defendants is in the hands of one man,” she said, claiming the changes made to the territory’s constitution to accommodate the jury suspension has caused concern among Turks & Caicos Islanders.

”They are reaching out and expressing their concern that if the defendant’s right to a jury can be cast aside, what about theirs?” the senior attorney added, as she pointed to the comments of the former British attorney general, Dominic Grieve QC, who said that trial by jury provides a vital safeguard in a free society

“It is a shame that Mr Misick and his co-defendants are not being afforded that vital safeguard,” the attorney said.

Meanwhile, Misick, who has denied all of the allegations against him of corruption, said he had placed his fate in the hands of God but clearly wished it could have been in the hands of a local jury instead.

“I know that this case is about more than just a group of defendants – this case is about ensuring that each and every Turks and Caicos Islander has access to equal and fair treatment under the law, including the sacred trial by jury,” he said in a press release.

The legal decision to try the case without a jury was based on pre-trial media publicity, which Justice Harrison said could not have failed to influence the minds of potential jurors in such a small jurisdiction, as well as the complexity of the charges regarding the movement of millions of dollars by various means and channels to various accounts and numerous recipients.

“Inevitably this would involve a heavy volume of documents, both at pre-trial and at the trial, more appropriately dealt with by a judge alone,” he concluded. His decision was upheld on appeal.

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Category: Caribbean, Courts, Crime, World News

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