Jury selected for Buju Banton trial
Reggae artiste appears to be in good spirits
Observer reporter PAUL HENRY reports from Tampa, Florida
Monday, September 20, 2010
TAMPA, United States — A 14 member panel of jurors was selected for the trial of Reggae singer Buju Banton in the Gibbons US Court in downtown Tampa this morning. The jury includes seven woman and only two African Americans.
Several jurors were excused because they expressed the view that marijuana should be made legal for medicinal purposes. However, Banton's lawyer David Oscar Markus, said he was satisfied with the make up of the jury.
Banton walked into court a few minutes before the proceedings started in a sports coat and black pants. His locks were caught up in a ponytail and his beard appeared well-groomed.
Six of his relatives and members of his band were also in court. Before the proceedings got underway, they held hands and sent up a prayer. There are also persons who have travelled from Jamaica and Los Angeles to support the artiste.
Banton is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute five or more kilograms of cocaine. His two co-defendants Ian Thomas and James Mack, have signed plea agreements and agreed to testify against him in exchange for lesser sentences.
The prosecution intends to call nine witnesses in a bid to secure a conviction against the artiste, who is registered as Mark Anthony Myrie.
Banton was arrested at his Tamarac home in South Florida in December, the same day Mack and Thomas were held attempting to buy cocaine from federal agents in a police controlled warehouse in Saratoga.
If found guilty Banton could be slapped with a sentence of 20 years to life and a fine of up to US$4 million.
The court is now in recess and evidence is expected to be presented when the trial resumes at 1:30 this afternoon.