Fifty-six jurors excused from Watson and Rodriguez trial

Questionnaire lists 32 witnesses, numerous businesses and government departments

A jury panel was chosen on Friday for the trial of Canover Watson and Miriam Rodriguez, but not before 56 of 70 potential jurors were excused. The seven jurors and two reserves chosen were scheduled to begin hearing the matter on Monday, Nov. 23. 

The jury selection process began with a questionnaire after Justice Michael Mettyear told the pool that the matter was not very straightforward, but it was important and interesting. “It’s important because it is alleged that there was a plot to cheat the Cayman Islands itself of a large sum of money and that these two were involved,” he said. “It’s important for the defendants also because they say they are not guilty.” 

Justice Mettyear pointed out that everyone wanted a fair trial, so it was important that anyone connected to certain companies or individuals not serve on the jury. 

He asked everyone in the jury pool to fill out a questionnaire. The results would then be “sifted through” by attorneys for the crown and defense. 

He identified as the most important question the following: “Do you hold such strong views, for any reason, for or against Canover Norbert Watson, Miriam Rodriguez and/or Jeffrey Deon Webb that it would prevent you from trying the defendants fairly on the basis of the evidence presented in court?” 

After the questionnaires were vetted, 19 people were asked to remain and the other 51 potential jurors were told they could leave. Of the 19, three were challenged by attorneys and the judge excused two more, for a total of 56 excused. 

The questionnaire included topics such as whether the potential juror or any close relative had ever been employed (in any capacity including voluntary work) by specific government departments or organizations or 12 private companies. 

The government entities included the Ministry of Health, Environment, Youth, Sports and Culture; Health Services Authority; Cayman Islands National Insurance Company; and the office of the Auditor General. 

Other entities listed were the Cayman Islands Football Association and affiliated clubs/managers/coaches, referees; the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football. 

The questionnaire also asked if any potential juror or close family member had a personal friendship or close association or business dealings with Watson, Rodriguez or Webb or their immediate families. 

The final question was: “Do you hold such strong views, for any reason, concerning the award of the CarePay contract to AIS (Cayman) Ltd?” 

The list of witnesses to be called during the trial includes Lizzette Yearwood, chief executive officer for the Health Services Authority; Carol Appleyard, general manager of CINICO; Marco Archer, Member of the Legislative Assembly; and Cindy Jefferson Bulgin, Government General Registry. The judge did not explain why these individuals or entities were listed on the questionnaire. Typically the prosecutor will go into such details when he or she opens the case to the jury. 

The prosecution in this matter is being conducted by Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Patrick Moran and Crown counsel Toyin Salako. 

Watson is represented by lead counsel Trevor Burke,
instructed by attorney Ben Tonner. Rodriguez is represented by attorney
Laurence Aiolfi.

Jurors have already been told that the trial is expected to last until the end of January, with a two-week break for Christmas and New Year’s. 

Justice Mettyear pointed out that everyone wanted a fair trial, so it was important that anyone connected to certain companies or individuals not serve on the jury.