The Malta Independent 15 October 2021, Friday

Jury retires to deliberate in Hugo Chetcuti murder trial

Wednesday, 13 October 2021, 12:59 Last update: about 1 day ago

The jury in the trial of Bojan Cmelik have retired to reach their verdict after the presiding judge finished summing up the evidence and arguments made in the week-long trial.

Cmelik, 38 from Serbia -also known as Bojan Mitic - is accused of the wilful homicide of Paceville impresario Hugo Chetcuti, who had been celebrating the opening of a new restaurant in the nightlife district with his family when he was stabbed twice in the abdomen by Cmelik in July 2018.

The trial by jury began last week.

Mr. Justice Aaron Bugeja painstakingly summed up the evidence, law and applicable legal doctrines on Tuesday and Wednesday, having begun his final address on Monday evening, after both prosecution and defence rested their cases.

Crucial to the outcome of the trial is the delicate question of whether Chetcuti’s death, from septicaemia in hospital, was the result of the stabbing or of a mistake by doctors, who initially missed one of the perforations in Chetcuti’s bowel.

The doctors who testified and who were not appointed as court experts were "ordinary witnesses", explained the judge, and therefore cannot give their opinion. If they express an opinion, jurors are to disregard it, said the judge.

“On the other hand, 'expert witnesses' appointed by a court like Dr. Mario Scerri and Dr. Marisa Cassar, are entitled at law and indeed expected to give their expert opinion on the matters.”

“Normally you do follow the conclusions of the experts, but there is a rule at law which says you are not bound to follow the expert opinion if you have good reason to disregard it.” The judge warned jurors that they cannot do so lightly or capriciously.

“If you seriously believe that for some reason or other - and there should always be a good reason – that the expert is wrong in their assessment, the law allows you to depart from their opinion.

“You are jurors, judges of fact. You assess what has been brought before you, nothing more and nothing less.”

Cmelik is being represented by legal aid lawyer Simon Micallef Stafrace.

Lawyers Joe Giglio and Mario Spiteri are appearing on behalf of the Chetcuti family.

Lawyers Kevin Valletta and Maria Francesca Spiteri from the Office of the Attorney General are prosecuting.

Mr. Justice Aaron Bugeja is presiding over the trial.

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