International reggae icon, Buju Banton (aka Mark Myrie), is scheduled to appear at a hearing in Tampa federal court this Wednesday, June 26, 2013. The GRAMMY-winning artist, who was convicted on trumped up drug and gun charges two years ago, could find out once and for all if Judge James S. Moody, Jr. will grant his request for a new trial based on juror misconduct. Judge Moody called the hearing to address the issue of seemingly rogue juror, Terri Wright, whose ensuing antics have caused multiple delays in this curiously enduring case.
- October 11, 2012 — Wright, an African American woman who served as jury foreperson during Banton’s second trial in 2011, is featured in a New Times article, where she openly admits to conducting research during the trial — even though the judge had explicitly ordered jurors not to. “I would get in the car, just write my notes down so I could remember, and I would come home and do the research,” Wright was quoted as saying.
- October 26, 2012 — Banton’s newly appointed legal team, led by esteemed Civil Rights attorney and Jackson, Mississippi Mayor, Chokwe Lumumba, files a motion for a new trial based on juror misconduct.
- November 23, 2012 — Judge Moody calls an evidentiary hearing for December 20th, with Wright and three additional former jurors (Frank Arnone, Janice Benoit, Steven Boyce).
- December 20, 2012 — At the hearing, Wright tries to distance herself from her statements in the paper saying the writer, Chris Sweeney, misquoted her and that she actually did the research after the trial was over. But Sweeney is in the courtroom and has a copy of the original recording with him. The tape is played and proves Sweeney’s reporting to be legit. Moody questions the other jurors and discovers more potential misconduct. Benoit testifies that she overheard a white female juror say that she did research during the trial (Wright is black).
- January 4, 2013 — Judge Moody widens his probe into juror misconduct and orders that a U.S. Marshal seize Wright’s home computers. A few days later he rescinds that order after Banton prosecutor, James Preston, Jr., raises “privacy and due process” concerns on behalf of Wright. Instead, Moody instructs Wright to bring her hard drive to a hearing in February and suggests she hire an attorney to represent her interests. Moody also subpoenas the remaining eight jurors.
- February 19, 2013 — Instead of cooperating with Judge Moody’s request, Wright’s new attorney, Lori Palmieri, a former state prosecutor, objects to Wright’s hard drive being searched at all, saying there is no evidence that Wright violated Moody’s instructions. Judge Moody maintains that the computer hard drive must be turned over but says he will also issue an order prohibiting the expert from releasing to attorneys any information unrelated to the allegation that the juror conducted Internet research about Banton’s case during the trial. The other jurors called to the hearing give conflicting information but one person confirms that Wright’s alleged violation was actually discussed in the jury room.
- March 1, 2013 — Judge Moody issues an order that computer forensics expert, Larry Daniel, can examine Wright’s hard drive activity from the period of Feb 14, 2011 to March 11, 2011 and look for footprints of the following 21 search terms: Pinkerton. Doctrine. Mark. Anthony. Myrie. Buju. Banton. Music. Reggae. Gun. Charge. Guilt. Verdict. Mistrial. Conspiracy. Cocaine. Narcotic. Drug. Possession. Hung. Jury.
- March 28, 2013 — The computer forensics expert releases his report. While he has found a trail of 1.6 million internet history records none pertain to the timeframe under scrutiny. He also reveals that “The hard drive delivered to me for foresnsic imaging was a full size hard drive from a desktop or tower computer.”
- March 31, 2013 — Team Buju immediately springs into action— filing a motion contending that Wright defied Court orders and turned over the wrong hard drive! The lawyers point to a March 26 article in the Tampa Bay Times , which quotes Wright’s attorney, Lori Palmieri, as saying her client only had one computer. “It was a laptop and she brought it, end of story…” Palmieri had told the paper.
- April 4, 2013 — Buju Banton’s attorney, Chokwe Lumumba, conducts an exclusive interview with the Jamaica Observer newspaper and unceremoniously slams the Terri Wright Sideshow: “Her attorney stated in court that she surrendered the hard drive of a laptop computer. She said she did research on the case three weeks after the trial. The expert found no evidence that she did any research at all on that hard drive and found that it was not the hard drive of a laptop but the hard drive of a desktop. We are of the firm opinion that she did not submit the hard drive for a laptop computer,” Lumumba told the Observer. He also pointed to other inconsistencies in Wright’s statements during jury selection for the trial. “It was also revealed that she had served on seven juries, but she said she only served on one jury in a civil matter. She is a seasoned juror. If his lawyer (who was then David Markus) had known that, she would have been rejected. She changed the syntax of her statement because at first she said she served on juries then changed and said jury. It was very misleading,” said the lawyer.
- April 16, 2013 — Judge Moody issues an order for a third hearing on June 26th to question juror Terri Wright about the findings in the forensic expert‘s report. The Court may also question Wright about the other issues raised in Defendant’s Motions For A New Trial. Buju is also expected to be in attendance.
Official Court Order Below:
This cause comes before the Court on Defendant Mark Myrie’s Second Motion for New Trial [Dkt. 403] and Defendant’s Amended Motion for Order finding Jury Misconduct and the granting of a New Trial [Dkt. 451]. An EVIDENTIARY HEARING is hereby scheduled on WEDNESDAY, JUNE 26, 2013, at 9:00 A.M. in Courtroom 13A at the U. S. Sam Gibbons Courthouse, 801 North Florida Avenue, Courtroom #13A, Tampa, Florida 33602. (Time reserved: One Hour)
The purpose for this hearing is to question juror Terri Wright about the expert report prepared by Larry E. Daniel. The Court may question Terri Wright about other issues raised in Defendant’s Motions for New Trial. The Court will subpoena juror Terri Wright to testify at the hearing. Terri Wright will be notified in the subpoena of her right to counsel and will be requested to produce any and all information, whether written or electronic, that was obtained in relation to the trial, parties, attorneys, or witnesses, prior to the discharge of the jury. The U.S. Marshal’s Office is directed to serve the subpoena on Terri Wright. Defendant Mark Myrie, who is detained, shall be produced for the hearing.
DONE and ORDERED in Tampa, Florida on April 16, 2013.