Picking a jury in a high-profile case in Hong Kong

Defence lawyers rejected 19 potential jurors without giving a reason, as law allows

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 May, 2014, 4:22am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 May, 2014, 8:36am

Lawyers for the five defendants in Hong Kong's highest-profile corruption case yesterday challenged 19 potential jurors without giving a reason - six fewer than is allowed under the Jury Ordinance.

The right to challenge without reason applies only to the defence, with each defendant getting five such challenges.

A total of 38 people in the jury pool were balloted during the empanelling process in the case of Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong and Raymond Kwok Ping-luen, co-chairmen of Sun Hung Kai Properties; Thomas Chan Kui-yuen, executive director of the company; former chief secretary Rafael Hui Si-yan; and former Hong Kong stock exchange official Francis Kwan Hung-sang.

Both the prosecution and defence have the right to raise unlimited challenges provided they can show good reason, such as the possibility of bias.

In addition to the 19 defence challenges, 10 potential jurors were exempted by the judge for various reasons. The remaining nine people in the pool were chosen for the jury for the trial.

Under the ordinance, a jury is usually composed of seven members. But the number can be increased to nine, most often for trials, such as this one, that are expected to last at least several months, to prepare for possible discharge of some jurors due to unforeseeable factors, such as health problems.

Jurors are free to return home after each day of the hearing until the last day of the trial when they are required to debate their verdict.

If jurors are unable to reach a decision on that day, they have to stay in the High Court building and be isolated from other people during their deliberations.

The High Court building has accommodation for two teams of nine jurors - totalling 18 - at the same time.

People who have been selected as jurors must do their public duty unless they provide justification for their refusal that is accepted by the court.

Those who defy the requirement can face prosecution and a fine of HK$5,000.

It is also an offence for employers to fire or threaten to fire their workers who have been chosen as jurors.

Each juror is entitled to an allowance of HK$410 a day during their service.