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Vick Pryce Trial: Dismissed Jurors Asked Judge 10 Questions Over Chris Huhne Case

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VICKY PRYCE JURY
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The jurors in the trial of Vicky Pryce were discharged on Wednesday after saying it was "highly unlikely" they would reach a verdict in her case.

Yesterday, the jury of eight women and four men handed a list of 10 questions to the judge, sparking concerns of "absolutely fundamental deficits in understanding".

Here are some of the questions and some of the judge's answers:

You have defined the defence of marital coercion at page five and also explained what does not fall within the definition by way of examples.

Please expand upon the definition (specifically "will was overborne"), provide examples of what may fall within the defence and does this defence require violence or physical threats?

Mr Justice Sweeney said: "The pressure applied by the husband if pressure there was might not involve violence or physical threats.

"The only thing which I can do to answer the rest of the question is to refer you back to the direction that I have already given...

"The words are relatively straightforward English words which the law does not permit me to go beyond further than I have by way of clear illustration in these directions.

"It follows therefore that I have directed you as far as I can in relation to 'will was overborne', it means that the person was so affected by pressure from the husband that she was impelled to commit the offence because she truly believed she had no real choice but to do as she did."

If there is debatable evidence supporting the prosecution's case, can inferences be drawn to arrive at a verdict? If so, inferences/speculation on the full evidence or only where you have directed us to do so (eg circumstantial evidence, lies, failure by Ms Pryce to mention facts to the police?)

Mr Justice Sweeney said: "The drawing of inferences is a permissible process, speculation is not.

Can you define what is reasonable doubt?

Mr Justice Sweeney said: "The standard of proof that the prosecution must achieve before you can convict is simply this, the prosecution must make you feel sure of guilt, that is the same as but no more than the proof of guilty beyond reasonable doubt.

"A reasonable doubt is a doubt which is reasonable.

"These are ordinary English words that the law doesn't allow me to help you with beyond the written directions that I have already given."

Can a juror come to a verdict based on a reason that was not presented in court and has no facts or evidence to support it, either from the prosecution or defence?

"The answer to that question is firmly no," said the judge.

Does the defendant have an obligation to present a defence?

Mr Justice Sweeney said: "There is no burden on the defence to prove her innocence, on the contrary there's no burden on the defence to prove anything at all.

"But against the background of these directions in particular as to the burden of proof, it follows that the defendant does not have an obligation to present a defence."

He added: "You must not as I have now emphasised many times, speculate about what other witnesses will have not been called might have said or draw any inferences from their absence.

"I have made that clear in response to similar questions that one or more of your number have asked in the past.

Can we speculate about the events at the time Ms Pryce signed the form or what was in her mind at that time?

"The answer to that is an equally firm no," Justice Sweeney said.

The jury is considering the facts provided but have continued to ask the questions raised by the police.

Given the case has come to court without answers to the police's questions, please advise on which facts in the bundle the jury shall consider to determine a not guilty or guilty verdict.

The judge said: "You decide the case on the evidence.

Would religious conviction be a good enough reason for a wife feeling she had no choice, ie she promised to obey her husband in wedding vows, and he had ordered her to do something and she felt she had to obey?

"This is not, with respect, a question about this case at all," said the judge.

"Ms Pryce does not say that any such reasoning formed any part of her decision to do what she did and the answer to this question will therefore not help you in any way whatsoever to reach a true verdict in this case.

"I must direct you firmly to focus on the real issues in this case and thereby to reach a true verdict according to the evidence."