THE FIRST virtual jury trial got underway at the Hall of Justice in Port of Spain this week. In keeping with the new covid19 emergency practice directions for court operations which came into effect on Tuesday, a murder trial before Justice Carla Brown-Antoine got underway this week and will continue next week.
Before the judge on an indictment for murder is Mikhel Antoine, who is charged with a 2010 murder which took place at Makai Lands in Belmont.
The 16 member jury – 12 jurors on the main panel and four alternates – were empanelled in March before covid19 stay at home restrictions were put in place.
No evidence was led at the time, and on Tuesday the matter resumed. So far, prosecutors Veona Neal-Munroe and Candace Nanton opened the prosecution’s case with their address to the jury, and the taking of evidence from two prosecution witnesses.
The witnesses gave their evidence in the courtroom at the Hall of Justice. Also present in the courtroom, practising physical distancing were the 16 jurors, the judge, her staff, prosecutors, court marshals and defence attorneys Larry Williams and Chelsea John and one of their juniors. The jurors occupied the jury box and most of the public gallery with each person sitting in alternate seats, similar to what is recommended for cinemas.
No member of the public was admitted to the hearing and the accused followed his trial via a video link from the Maximum Security Prison. A large screen has been mounted in the courtroom to allow for the video feed with the prison. Everyone in the courtroom, including the judge and jurors, remained masked throughout the proceedings and only the witnesses were allowed to take off theirs while they gave evidence and the attorneys while they asked their questions.
The trial continues on Tuesday, with the testimony of another prosecution witness. An application has been made by the defence to have the accused brought to court for the hearing so that they can take instructions from him.