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Nov 27, 2003

Jury contaminated, Gurkha trial will start all over

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It convened in Belmopan last Tuesday, but today the court martial of three Gurkha soldiers came to an abrupt halt and will have to start all over with a new jury. The startling announcement came after evidence was presented that one of the witnesses held a forbidden conversation with a juror. The conversation, which occurred on Wednesday inside the George Price Centre, was interrupted by the Court Officer, Lt. Colonel Jim Bond and immediately reported. After considerable legal discussions in chambers today between Judge Advocate Paul Camp and the attorneys for both the prosecution and defence, the decision was made to dissolve the board, as the jury is called in a British court martial, and to have another jury sent to Belize from the U.K. as soon as possible, perhaps sometime next week or the week after. The court martial would then reconvene with the new jury. Lt. Colonel Bond told News 5 that there will be a directional meeting on Friday to discuss the way forward, but there is a strong possibility that the Belizean witnesses will have to be recalled to the stand here and then the court will move to the U.K. after the holidays where the British witnesses will testify. This new development means that Eugene Zabaneh Jr., Said Musa Jr., and two security guards who already gave testimony for the prosecution and were cross examined by the defence, will have to appear all over again. The Gurkhas are facing charges of violent disorder following a brawl at Raul’s Rose Garden on May eleventh, 2001. Fourteen-year-old David Zabaneh Jr. was severely beaten during the incident and died of his injuries the following day in a Florida hospital. David’s mother and stepfather have attended the proceedings every day and were visibly shaken by today’s decision.

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