THE jury in the trial of three young men accused of the murder of Coventry teenager Jaydon James has been discharged over health concerns related to the Covid-19 outbreak.
And it is planned that Frank Kenfack, Abdirazac Abdi and Bongani Ngozi, who have pleaded not guilty to 16-year-old Jaydon’s murder, will now stand trial again at the end of September.
The decision to stop the trial which, including legal arguments, was into its fourth week at Warwick Crown Court, was taken by Judge Andrew Lockhart QC after discussing the situation with leading counsel in the case in his chambers.
Alleged members of Coventry’s RB7 gang, Kenfack (18) of no fixed address; Abdi (20) of Foleshill Road, Coventry; and Ngozi (18) of Rosemary Way, Hinckley, had also denied wounding two of Jaydon’s friends with intent to cause them grievous bodily harm.
The jury had heard from prosecutor Michael Burrows QC that on Saturday night, the 24th of November 2018, 16-year-old Jaydon was with friends in the Wood End area of Coventry.
“A black Peugeot car pulled up near them, some men ran from the car and chased Jaydon James and his friends. Many of his friends got away, but Jaydon James did not.
“He ran down a driveway at the side of a nearby church. Those chasing caught up and stabbed him in the back.
“The knife they used went right through his body, and he died from his injuries some time later.
“The prosecution says the attack on Jaydon was murder, and that these defendants were all involved in that attack.”
The background was said to be rivalry between two gangs, the RB7 gang based in and around the city centre, and the C2 gang based in the Wood End CV2 postcode area.
Explaining his decision to stop the trial, Judge Lockhart said one of the jurors had sent a note explaining that his wife had an underlying medical condition which had made it necessary for her to self-isolate, in line with health recommendations.
And one of the senior barristers in the case was in a similar situation, and although both he and the juror were willing to continue if the judge ordered the trial to continue, it would mean they had to distance themselves from their partners.
Judge Lockhart said: “I have now to decide whether to allow this case to go forward, or whether, in the extraordinary circumstances, to discharge the jury and list this trial at some date in the future.
“We are in the throes of a public health emergency. The advice is that those with underlying conditions should self-isolate and seek to avoid contact with those who may come into contact with the Covid-19 virus.
“Many who live with those who are choosing to self-isolate, for good reason, may take the view they should also limit their social contact.”
The judge said he would, in any event, discharge that one juror, but ruled: “My judgement is that I will now discharge the jury from returning verdicts.”
The 12 jurors were then brought into court to be told by Judge Lockhart: “I am going to discharge you from giving verdicts in this case, which is going to end for your purposes now.
“We are in the throes of a public health emergency. The Government has issued advice to reduce social contact, and that those who are the more vulnerable should seek to self-isolate.
“I have taken notice of the fact that many of those who live with those with underlying health problems have themselves chosen to self-isolate.
“It has come to my attention that two of our number have people who they live with who are in such vulnerable groups.”
Of the Government’s advice, he observed: “I don’t know how long these measures will be required. All we can do is listen to the advice and take the best measures we can.”
And he added: “You have been absolutely model jurors. I am very sorry we have not arrived at the end. I wish you all well. Thank you for your time here.”
Following an adjournment for him to discuss the situation with the court’s listing officer, Judge Lockhart said the trial would start again with a new jury on September 28 – and the three defendants were remanded in custody until then.