The curious case of Mr Q, the juror excused the day before deliberations in the Donald Tsang bribery trial
The removal of the juror adds air of mystery to the proceedings
When a member of the jury hearing the bribery trial of former Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang Yam-kuen’s was abruptly removed a day before deliberations were set to begin, a sense of mystery filled the courtroom.
It also didn’t help that it was the day after Halloween when the remaining four women and four men returned from a lunch break to find the man missing.
“Certain matters have taken place, but you should not be concerned with those matters,” presiding judge Mr Justice Andrew Chan Hing-wai said, cryptically, on Wednesday.
Tsang, 73, avoided a guilty verdict on one count of accepting an advantage as chief executive between 2010 and 2012 after the trial ended on Friday in a hung jury.
Now that the trial is over, the mystery can be revealed.
Turns out that being star-struck cost the ninth juror an opportunity to help decide Tsang’s fate. During lunch that day, the juror, who was referred to in court as Mr Q, chased after Chip Tsao, a media personality who came to support Tsang.
Mr Q, being a long-time fan, took pictures with Chip Tsao, and engaged in a casual conversation with him.
“He asked if I am Shanghainese. I said Beijing,” Mr Q told the judge that day in a brief session without the other eight jurors present.
While it may have seemed like an innocent conversation to Mr Q, prosecutors took notice and alerted Chan of their concerns that it might prejudice the jury.
Prosecutor David Perry QC said it caused him concern, given that Tsao was sitting on the side of the public gallery occupied by Tsang’s family. He also said Tsao had expressed views that were critical of the prosecution in the past.
Mr Q was immediately separated from the other jurors so there was no chance for him to talk about his conversation with Tsao.
Chan decided that a “fair-minded, informed observer at the back of the court” would have come to the conclusion that Mr Q could be biased, so he dismissed him.