A woman was thrown off an Old Bailey jury after complaining her fellow jurors were treating a murder case as a ‘joke.’
The juror, who cannot be named, claimed the six women and five men were ignoring the judge’s instructions, refusing to let her speak and laughing as they discussed the case in a private room.
She had stormed out during the trial of two men accused of stabbing a man to death in front of his girlfriend in a drugs raid in a south London tower block.
The woman sent a handwritten letter to the judge only half an hour after the jury was sent out to begin its deliberations last week..
She asked to speak with a court usher from inside the deliberating room just minutes after discussions began.
When the court official entered she already had her coat on and had collected her bag. She announced: ‘I want to see the judge. I’m leaving now,’
When the request was refused, Judge David Paget QC ordered she be separated from the rest of the jury and write a full note detailing her concerns.
The remaining eleven jurors were ordered to stop deliberating while her allegations were investigated.
The judge came in to court and told barristers and the two defendants that there was evidence of ‘considerable friction’ in the jury room.
In her note, she wrote: ‘Members of the jury are laughing and acting as if this matter is a joke.
‘They are not taking in to account the judge’s instructions.
‘When I try to speak I am told I am speaking too much and all they can hear is my voice. Please interpret what this means for me.’
She later wrote him a formal letter to Judge Paget giving further details of her concerns.
After the woman was removed from the jury room the remaining eleven apologised for what happened, and told a court official: ‘We are in a no win situation.’
‘It appears there is considerable friction and it is extremely difficult for the other eleven to discuss the case,’ said Judge Paget.
In an unprecedented move, the judge called all 12 members of the jury in to court after a three hour delay to try and resolve their differences.
He gave them a series of questions, which included asking whether they had treated the case ‘as a laughing matter and a joke’ before the case could continue.
Judge Paget said: ‘The note I have had suggests that other members of the jury have regarded this case as a laughing matter and joke, that other members of the jury were not taking into account my instructions and other members of the jury were telling her she was talking too much and all they were hearing was her voice.’
The judge then gave the eleven members of the jury a questionnaire to fill out and they returned 20 minutes later with their answers:
Q1: Have you been treating this trial as a laughing matter and a joke?
Q2: Are you not taking account of the judge’s instructions?
Q3: Have you told her she is speaking too much?
A: Yes, because people felt she refused to contribute to an organised discussion.
Q4: Do you feel able to give this case proper consideration?
The judge accepted their answers and decided to agree to the woman juror’s request to be discharged from the jury, allowing the case to continue with eleven jurors.
In all there was a four hour delay before the deliberations continued.
The jury of 11 unanimously convicted Chesham Walters, 29, of the murder of 35-year-old Rastafarian Luthan Leandre.
He was later jailed for life and ordered to serve a minimum of 30 years.
Jermell Josephs, 20, was cleared of murder. Both were found guilty of robbery.
Josephs will be sentenced later.
The two men had gone to the victim’s flat in Nevil House, Minet Road, Brixton, sw London, on October 25 last year on the pretext of a drug deal.
Once inside they demanded money and cannabis. During a struggle Walters grabbed a kitchen knife and stabbed him repeatedly.
Mr Leandre’s girlfriend Cynthia Mapara, who was in the flat and witnessed the killing, picked out Walters as the knifeman at an ID parade.
At the end of the case Judge Paget thanked the remaining jurors for their service in ‘particularly difficult’ circumstances.
He told them they had paid the ‘closest attention’ to the case and apologised for the problems they encountered.
He said: ‘It remains for me to thank all of you for the very close and careful attention you have given to this case.
‘I know it has been difficult and I know your retirement initially was particularly difficult and I am sorry for that.
‘It is obvious all of you have paid the closest attention to this case from start to finish.’
He added: ‘I hope you leace feeling you have done your bit in contributing to the administration of justice.’