Sun | Aug 20, 2017

Jurors decry court 'fiasco'

Published:Tuesday | October 13, 2015 | 10:00 AMBarbara Gayle
Llewellyn

Jurors who turned out in large numbers at the Home Circuit Court yesterday morning expressed disgust at the fact that they had to sit for more than three hours "twiddling" their thumbs before a 12-member jury was finally selected and they were told to return on Wednesday morning.

"I came to do my civic duty, but I had no idea it would turn out to be such a time-wasting event," one first-time juror remarked.

The court experienced various problems yesterday, including absent lawyers who had cases set for trial.

In one case, a female prisoner who is charged jointly with two men for murder was not taken to court on time.

Senior Puisne Judge Gloria Smith apologised to the jurors several times and called for them to exercise "patience, tolerance and understanding".

Jurors echoed approval when Smith remarked, "I know a lot of them are here at great personal sacrifice and some don't wish to be here."

Not fair to the jurors

The judge said further that it was not fair to the jurors for them to be sitting around while "we straighten out our business".

She stressed that it should be taken into account that the jurors were at court because they were part of the system and there were appeals to them to come out and serve.

After the jurors left the courtroom, one juror described the situation as "a real fiasco".

"I had no idea that so much idleness existed in the courts," the juror said.

Smith had earlier remarked that she found very disrespectful to the court what took place yesterday. She described the event in court as pure, unadulterated bungling.

unfortunate

Director of Public Prosecutions Paula Llewellyn said it was very unfortunate that in all of the matters listed for trial, not all of the lawyers were in court.

She said the situation was unfortunate.

In response, the judge said "unfortunate" was not the word.

Llewellyn said it was very disconcerting for them to be making telephone calls to defence lawyers when they were all aware that they should be in court on time.

A juror, in summing up what took place in court yesterday, said, "The situation is disgraceful and jurors should not have to come to court to experience these conditions. There is no wonder there are so many cases on the court list because so much time is wasted in court."

In July, the Government increased allowances for jurors from $500 to $2,000 daily.

However, only jurors who are selected to sit on cases are entitled to the allowances.

Some lawyers expressed the view last month that jurors who were not selected to try cases should at least be compensated for their travelling expenses.

The Home Circuit Court has more than 500 cases for trial, and of that number more than 300 are murder cases.

barbara.gayle@gleanerjm.com