Posted: Saturday, February 10, 2024. 8:53 am CST.
By Aaron Humes: Chief Magistrate Jayani Wegodapola on Monday intervened to allow media personnel into the trial of the 12 persons accused of landing a drug plane on the Bladen highway in November of 2021 which started at the Magistrate’s Court – or more accurately, at a temporary courtroom inside the Charles Bartlett Hyde administration building off Mahogany Street.
Multiple media reports say the media was barred from entering the courtroom because it’s on the precinct of the Family Court, even though the criminal trial has nothing to do with any Family Court matters.
Due to a lack of space to accommodate the 12 accused, the trial is not being held at the temporary Magistrate’s Court building on Coney Drive. It instead has been moved to where the Family Court was also recently moved. Because of the sensitivity of the issues handled by the Family Court, media are not permitted into Family Court matters and stories are indeed rarely done about such matters.
Media personnel went to the Magistrate’s Court to request an urgent intervention of the Chief Magistrate. She was in court but the Clerk of Court tried to resolve the matter quickly via email.
Attorney for four of the accused, Oscar Selgado, later told reporters that the mix-up was in part due to the fact that the temporary courtroom on the third floor of the Administration Building is in an administrative, staff-only area of the Family Court. No security was in place to escort the members of the press corps in and out. That has now been put in place.
As for what actually happened in court, Selgado explained, “The court has asked from certain defense attorneys whether or not we will start with a voir dire because two caution statements were solicited and were granted from two defendants so I believe we will start with a voir dire to see whether or not those caution statements will be admitted into evidence.”
As many as 60 witnesses will be called, though only a handful will be directly questioned as part of the strategy of the four defense attorneys involved – Selgado, Richard “Dickie” Bradley, Lindon Jones, and Leroy Banner. The trial is scheduled to take 15 days.
On November 5, 2021, a plane was intercepted on the southern highway near Bladen with 1,682 pounds of cocaine and 5 guns. 12 persons including 4 police officers were charged.
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