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Thursday, August 14, 2014, 09:04

Sordid details of murder case too much for jury

By Timothy Chui in Hong Kong
 Sordid details of murder case too much for jury
The sun reflects off the the outer wall of the High Court in Hong Kong on March 28, 2012. (Photo  AFP)

The horrific details of an elderly couple’s murder, allegedly by their son and another man, have taken a heavy toll on some jury members hearing the case.

On Wednesday, the jury was dismissed from the trial after two of its members said they couldn’t cope with the psychological stress.

Henry Chau Hoi-leung, 30, and co-accused Tse Chun-kei, 38, allegedly killed Chau’s elderly parents before processing the bodies in an attempt to disguise the remains as barbecued meat before disposal.

High Court Deputy Judge Michael Stuart-Moore announced on Wednesday it was impossible to continue after a second juror asked to leave.

Although Hong Kong’s common law system allows for trials with a jury of seven to continue after being reduced to five, Stuart-Moore decided to seek a fresh jury given the gravity of the case.

He said a new jury of nine would be empaneled and the case restarted.

A jury of seven, then six after an application from one juror to leave last week, sat through seven days of testimony. This detailed the gruesome and methodical murder of Chau’s parents. Their remains were found salted, cooked and stored in lunch boxes while the heads were found in refrigerators by police last year.

Stuart-Moore said after the two complaints by jurors the rest of the jury may harbor the same aversion to continuing and that he would dissolve the panel. He also exempted them from jury duty for life, given the sordid details of the slaying.

The dissolving of a jury due to the psychological weight of the evidence is rare but not a first in Hong Kong.

A 2011 domestic situation, which turned into murder when a wife doused her husband with boiling oil before stabbing him 16 times, was adjourned twice because the jury was upset by the evidence.

A jury must consist of no fewer than five members in any criminal or coroner’s case, while juries of seven are the norm. But a nine-person jury is allowed at the judge’s discretion under Hong Kong law.

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