Jury may reach Bush verdict Wednesday

The fate of former Premier McKeeva Bush could be in the hands of the three man, four woman jury by Wednesday afternoon. 

Justice Michael Mettyear said on Monday that he would give his legal direction to the jury and sum up the case on Wednesday, indicating that he expected to send the jury out to deliberate on their verdict the same day. 

A packed crowd is expected around the court house, which has been filled with spectators throughout the trial. 

Mr. Bush has denied six counts of misconduct in public office, contrary to Common Law, and five counts of breach of trust by a Member of the Legislative Assembly, under the Anti-Corruption Law. 

The charges relate to allegations that he withdrew just less than US$50,000 on his government-issued credit card and used at least some of that money to gamble in casino slot machines – conduct the prosecution say amounts to an abuse of his power. 

They say Mr. Bush used the card to try to land a big win for himself. The defense say his personal cash withdrawals on the card were within the rules at the time and argue that he is being victimized. 

Duncan Penny, QC, summed up the Crown’s case on Friday by saying the credit card and slot machine records showed “beyond dispute” that Mr. Bush had used cash from his card to gamble and insisted he should not have needed a detailed written policy to realize this was wrong. He said it was “blindingly obvious” that this was not what the card was for and suggested Mr. Bush had lied about how he had used the card because he knew he was abusing his power. 

Mr. Bush’s lawyer, Geoffrey Cox, QC, summed up Monday by saying the Crown had “no case” and that nearly every civil servant who had stepped into the witness box had testified that there was no policy against using the government card for personal use – so long as the money was paid back. 

He said the practice had been commonplace in government and questioned why Mr. Bush was the only person to ever be censured for such activity, suggesting the then-premier had been the victim of a plot spearheaded by former Governor Duncan Taylor to oust him from power.  

During the three-and-a-half week trial, the jury has heard testimony from some of the most senior civil servants in the territory about Mr. Bush’s use of the government credit card and the practices and policies on card use around the time of the alleged offences in 2009 and early 2010. 

The jury has also heard from a casino finance boss about how some of Mr. Bush’s gambling losses were tracked on his customer loyalty cards. 

Deputy Governor Franz Manderson was publicly accused by Mr. Bush’s attorney, Mr. Cox, of being party to a political plot, along with former Governor Taylor and others, to remove the former leader from power. Mr. Manderson denied being part of any such plot. 

A series of emails sent by Mr. Taylor to a foreign office official, including one suggesting he would open a bottle of champagne if Mr. Bush were charged, were produced by the defense to support the theory that Mr. Bush was being “hunted” by the then governor. 

While courts prefer to see unanimous verdicts from juries, a 5-2 majority from a 7-member jury would be accepted. According to the Judicature Law, a unanimous verdict is not necessary when “in a case where there are not less than six jurors, five of them agree on the verdict.” 

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