A judge yesterday apologised to jurors for the “appalling behaviour” of two lawyers whom he said had made a “mockery” of proceedings.
On the fourth day of a trial that has been dominated by bickering and continuous interruptions during the questioning of witnesses, Mr Justice Michael Mallia ran out of patience with the lawyers.
He told Joe Mifsud, acting for the defence, and Nadine Sant from the Attorney General’s Office that he had never seen this kind of bickering in over 20 years on the bench.
The judge said they should both be “ashamed” and what they had done brought shame on the profession, especially since they were conducting themselves in such a manner during a jury trial.
He then turned to the jurors and apologised for their behaviour.
The judge’s apology followed a heated exchange between the two lawyers, during which Dr Sant demanded to know whether Dr Mifsud had had any contact with the prosecution witnesses.
Angered by the remark, Dr Mifsud proceeded to yell at the top of his voice and told Dr Sant she should be ashamed of herself for lying in court. The defence lawyer then asked to leave the room for a short period.
The other defence lawyer involved in the case, Joe Brincat, stood up at this point and said proceedings could not continue in such a manner. In turn, the judge praised Dr Brincat for bringing a semblance of calm to a turbulent trial.
The accused, José Pena, 41, from Colombia and Domingo Navas, 33, of Panama, are pleading not guilty to conspiring to traffic in 1.5 kilos of drugs, worth €133,000, in 2006.
The men were arrested after another man, Enrique Martinez Burgoa, 43, a Mexican drug mule, imported the drugs and according to the prosecution was supposed to hand over the drugs to Mr Pena and Mr Navas at a Sliema hotel. During the questioning of Mr Burgoa yet another argument broke out between Dr Mifsud and Dr Sant – and the judge said that he, as was his right, was taking over the questioning.
The trial continues.
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