Murder trial jury dismissed after complaining parent-killing evidence too gruesome
New trial set for two men accused of killing and dismembering couple
The gruesome murder case in which a man and his friend are accused of killing the former's parents and dismembering their bodies will have to restart with a new, bigger jury after a judge excused the foreman, who said he was too upset by the evidence to continue.
Another juror, a woman, had earlier been let go for same reason two days into the trial.
Presiding deputy judge Mr Justice Michael Stuart-Moore said that under Hong Kong law, the trial of Henry Chau, 30, and his friend Tse Chun-kei, 36, could have gone on with five jurors.
But he said it was "impossible to continue" given the effect of the evidence on other jurors in the case, and discharged the remaining three women and two men.
The judge said it was an "unfortunate situation" as it happened halfway through the trial. He ruled that the trial should start again with nine jurors instead of the usual seven. That trial is set for February 23 next year, according to the judiciary website.
Chau and Tse deny murdering Chau's parents - Chau Wing-ki, 65, and Siu Yuet-yee, 62 - at a flat in Tai Kok Tsui on March 1 last year.
The court heard last week that the bodies of the elderly couple were cut up, with the heads stored in two refrigerators and other remains kept in lunch boxes, plastic bags and plastic boxes.
Stuart-Moore told the court that he had received a doctor's certificate on behalf of the jury foreman, and released him immediately. The foreman looked relieved after hearing the judge's decision.
The judge then explained to the remaining jurors that both the foreman and the woman who withdrew earlier claimed what they had heard in court had affected them psychologically.
"You may have the same feelings as well," the judge said. "I believe it is impossible to continue."
The judge said he was sorry that the jurors had needed to hear some of the evidence and exempted them all from jury duty for life.
This is not the first time that a Hong Kong jury has been dismissed in a murder trial after a juror found the evidence too distressing to continue.
Juries were discharged twice in the 2002 murder trial of a woman accused of throwing boiling oil over her husband before stabbing him 16 times and injecting him with insulin.
One juror was too upset by the evidence, while another notified the judge that she had received a doctor's note saying she was suffering anxiety and neurosis and that further exposure to the trial could make her situation worse.
The judge in the 2002 trial suggested lawyers consider picking nine jury members, all men, on the next occasion.
However, that trial ended up with a jury of seven women and two men, all of whom stayed on through the trial's duration.