Buju Banton One Step Closer to Freedom
Last week, Moody ignored Wright's explanations. He ordered the gun charge thrown out because of the juror's research. He also told the state to prepare a contempt charge against the former juror for deceiving the court about the hard drive. She could face a fine and six-month sentence if convicted.
But Moody also ruled against a defense motion to throw out the drug charges, potentially leaving Banton in jail for the remainder of his ten-year sentence.
According to Markus, now that law libraries, statutes, and case law are a Google search away from anyone, more court cases are hindered by rogue research. "These issues are coming up quite frequently," he explains. "Judges are put in a difficult position today, because every day, jurors are going home to do research."
Banton's legal team says the New Times article about the juror's work "without a doubt" is responsible for the latest development. "That was the basis for our motion for retrial," Alkebu-lan says.
Team Buju is now weighing its options. Moody's decision leaves the whole proceeding in an awkward -- and ridiculous -- middle ground. By rejecting the gun charge, the judge acknowledged Wright's misconduct tainted the proceedings -- but if she tainted one count, how is it possible she didn't poison the whole process?
"I'm not sure you can put those things into separate boxes," Markus says. "Once a juror, especially the foreperson, is doing outside research, it really affects the whole trial. And I think it really applies here. The jury initially voted 10-2 not guilty on all counts. This woman really affected how the jury thought about the case."
That's why, when Banton's attorneys appeal Moody's decision to leave the drug charge in place, it is possible the higher court will clear the deck. The defendant has a 14-day window to appeal Moody's decision to leave the remaining sentence in place. The prosecution also has the option to retry Banton on the gun charge (the U.S. Attorney's Office declined to comment about the case for this article), although it's unlikely at this point. For the recording star, that means his hellish run through the criminal justice system might soon be over.
"This decision," Alkebu-lan says, "helps us tremendously."