Birkirkara murder trial will go ahead despite family’s objections

The family of murder victim Roderick Grech filed an eleventh-hour application doubting whether a Maltese jury was able to reach a proper verdict in the case against their son's alleged killer 

The trial by jury of Etienne Bartolo, known as ‘Il-Vojt”, will go ahead as planned despite a court application filed by his alleged victim’s family in which it is claimed that the trial would breach their fundamental rights.

The application was filed by 26-year-old Roderick Grech’s mother and two sisters just two weeks before Bartolo faces a trial by jury.

He is accused of killing Grech in the early hours of the morning on 29 March 2017, when the two met to settle payment for drugs sold the previous day.

Grech was stabbed several in an ensuing argument, but was able to utter the words “vojt…vojt” as he was being administered first aid.

In their application, submitted by lawyer Franco Debono, the family insisted that jurors in Malta are not equipped to reach a proper verdict.

“They have a lack of training which itself breaches the fundamental rights of the accused and the parte civile [the victim’s family] to have this case heard in the most judicious and impartial of ways,” Debono stated in the Grech family’s constitutional application.

In a second point of the constitutional application, Debono also says the Grech family’s rights will be breached in the upcoming trial because they cannot participate in the prosecution, as is done in the compilation of evidence stage that precedes the trial.

The Grech family also claimed they had not been informed of the jury date set for the 2 September, and that they were only informed by third parties.

However, Judge Consuelo Scerri Herrera dismissed the application, allying fears by the police that it could have upended the trial by jury.

Police sources who spoke to MaltaToday last week said they had been shocked by the request so close to the start of the trial.

“The family is insisting that jurors are not skilled in reaching a proper legal verdict and that as parte civile they have limited input in the Attorney General’s prosecution during the trial. But it’s an eleventh-hour request… not by the defendant but by the family of the victim: why?” the sources said.

The trial is also expected to summon as witness Jordan Azzopardi, the alleged drug lord whose Wardija hide-out was raided in a major sting operation earlier this year. Azzopardi is also represented by Debono.

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