TAMPA, USA — Jamaican reggae star Buju Banton emerged from court looking comfortable and greeted supporters after jurors yesterday failed to reach a verdict in his gun and drug retrial following hours of deliberations.
The jurors, who broke off deliberations yesterday at 4:30, will resume on Tuesday as Monday is Presidents Day, a public holiday here.
While Banton did not make a comment to the throng of reporters gathered outside the Sam M Gibbons Federal Court in this city, his attorney Dave Markus gave a brief statement, saying that he was optimistic.
He later told the Observer that the lengthy deliberations were an indication that the jurors were looking at the case.
“We are thankful the jurors are taking the case seriously,” said Markus. “We are staying positive, that’s all we can do. They are looking at the evidence and we feel that if they can do that we will be OK.”
Jurors in Banton’s first trial in September 2010 deliberated for three days but were unable to reach a verdict, setting the stage for the retrial which started on Monday.
The jurors were handed the case at around 9:37 am by Judge Jim Moody who, for close to an hour, instructed them on the laws concerning the charges against Banton. After deliberating for a while, jurors early yesterday asked to see the gun for which Banton, whose real name is Mark Myrie, has been charged.
Banton is on trial for conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute cocaine; attempted possession with the intent to distribute cocaine; possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offence; and using the wires to facilitate a drug trafficking offence.
Moody told the jurors yesterday morning that in order to reach a guilty verdict they all had to find, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant was a willing participant in a conspiracy, among other things. Regarding the firearm charge Moody said that the defendant had to knowingly possess the firearm during the furtherance of a drug trafficking crime to be convicted. The jurors were instructed to consider each charge separately.
The gun for which Banton has been charged was found in the car of a James Mack on December 10, 2009 during a drug sting operation. Banton was not on the scene when Mack was arrested and the gun found. The prosecution is contending that Banton, Mack and Ian Thomas conspired to possess and distribute the cocaine.
Yesterday, as jurors deliberated, Banton and his supporters prayed together. Others waited nervously on what they thought would be a quick verdict in favour of the Grammy-winning artiste.
Following yesterday’s adjournment, Banton’s supporters requested prayers for a not guilty verdict.
“We are looking forward to that not guilty verdict come next week on all four counts,” said Banton’s manager Traci McGregor.