In a dramatic development in the murder trial of wealthy property developer Ron Medich, a juror has been discharged.
Crown prosecutor Gina O’Rourke, SC, was about to commence her closing address to the jury, which has heard evidence over the past six weeks.
For legal reasons, it cannot be disclosed why the juror was discharged.
After an hour and half’s delay, the jury returned with the seat of their former jury member left vacant.
“It wont have escaped your attention,” said Justice Geoff Bellew, “that a member of the jury has been discharged.”
The judge warned the remaining jurors that they were not to speculate about the reasons behind the discharge of the juror.
They were also warned that they were not to have any contact with that person until the trial had concluded.
The trial, which started at the end of January, commenced with 15 jurors. After four days, one juror was discharged and now, at the end of the trial, another juror has gone.
It is customary in lengthy trials to start with a larger jury in case of illness or misadventure.
Once the judge has completed his summing up, which is due to happen next week, there will be a ballot to see which of the remaining jurors will make up the final panel of 12.
In her closing address, the prosecutor addressed the issue of the Crown’s key witness Lucky Gattellari having been charged in December with conspiring to extort money from the accused murderer Mr Medich.
She said that, through intermediaries, including the “notorious” Roger Rogerson, he had asked Mr Medich for $10 million before the committal hearing and $15 million before the murder trial.
However, she recounted Gattellari’s evidence that he never intended to change his evidence.
Gattellari has told the jury that he organised the 2009 murder of Michael McGurk at the behest of Mr Medich, who he says paid him $500,000 to kill Mr McGurk and to later intimidate his widow, Kimberley McGurk.
Ms O’Rourke told the jury that, upon Gattellari’s arrest on October 13, 2010, he was told by his lawyers that the cost for his defence and bail would be about $1 million.
She said that his subsequent demands to Mr Medich that he put up the million dollars would be described by the defence as “an extortion”.
However, Ms O’Rourke said it was a “cry for assistance”.
Gattellari was about incur these legal fees when he had agreed to carry out the demands of Mr Medich to murder Mr McGurk and intimidate his wife, Ms O’Rourke said.
The prosecutor said that Mr Medich refused to assist in any way and that, in the days immediately after Gattellari’s arrest, Mr Medich “completely wiped his hands of Gattellari” and that Gattellari now realised he had been “left to face the music alone”.
The jury has heard that the alleged motive for the murder was that Mr McGurk and Mr Medich were embroiled in a number of legal battles, which Mr Medich was losing.
Gattellari told the court that Mr Medich had complained that that Mr McGurk was making him “the laughing stock of the eastern suburbs”.
Mr Medich has pleaded not guilty.