Fri | Oct 18, 2019

Trial of men charged with murder of businessman Bunny Francis stalled

Published:Tuesday | January 15, 2019 | 2:36 PM

Nickoy Wilson, Gleaner Writer

The trial of the four men charged with the June 2011 murder of well-known conch businessman Roderick 'Bunny' Francis has been postponed due to a disagreement between prosecution and defence on how the matter should be tried.

Yesterday, the defence requested that the matter be tried by a judge alone, but today the prosecution insisted that the matter should be heard by a judge and a jury.

Presiding judge Justice Glen Brown said that since an agreement could not be reached, the normal procedure of jury selection would be undertaken.

However, this could not happen because there were only 23 persons present for jury selection.

Further, the trial could not start because three of the accused fired their attorneys today.

During a verbal exchange between Vincent Wellesley, the attorney representing Sheldon Watson, and the prosecution he revealed that his client had been offered a plea deal to testify against his co-accused.

Following the disclosure, Wellesley told the court that Watson indicated to him that he no longer required his services.

This prompted the judge to ask the accused for an explanation.

"I told him (Wellesley) from day one that I am not I interested in any deal from the prosecutor. Him keep bringing the same argument to me," said Watson who spoke on the request of the presiding judge.

Watson subsequently fired Wellesley citing mistrust.

A similar action was taken by co-accused Newton Welsh, who was represented by attorney Diane Jobson and George Gardener who was represented by attorney Pierre Rogers.

The fourth accused Carlos Batista, who is being represented by attorney Deborah Martin, did not change his legal representation.

In light of the development, Justice Brown set a new mention date for February 22 and the men's bails were further extended.

Francis, 61, was gunned down outside his Queensway, St Andrew home on June 25, 2011.

It is believed that his murder was a contract killing.

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