Wed | Oct 23, 2019

St James courts battling juror crisis

Published:Tuesday | September 17, 2019 | 12:15 AMChristopher Thomas/Gleaner Writer

WESTERN BUREAU:

High Court judge, Justice Glen Brown, yesterday bemoaned the perpetual problem of the low turnout of potential jurors to try cases in St James, when it was brought to his attention that only 13 persons obeyed the 31 summonses that had been sent out for the current sitting.

The judge, who presided over the Michaelmas session of the St James Circuit Court, was told that only 31 summonses were sent out from the roughly 400 which had been prepared.

“I cannot try certain cases by myself, so I have to use certain persons from your communities, and these are jurors. Only 31 summonses were served, so that means it’s impossible to try a case, but we will soldier on,” stated Brown.

“What I do know is that we are taking steps to improve the jury pool so that by next year, we will have more jurors. I’m also asking doctors not to sign medical excuses for jurors unless they’re genuinely sick,” added Brown.

Lead prosecutor Maxine Jackson, in commenting on the low juror turnout, said that prospective jurors are critical to the country’s development.

“The jurors are a critical part of the country’s stakeholders, and Vision 2030 requires the participation of all stakeholders, but 13 persons being here today as jurors can’t be of any useful purpose to a list that has 181 cases,” said Jackson.

“The issue of jury-duty dodging in St James has been a long-standing one, with only 25 persons responding to 56 summonses during last September’s sitting of the Circuit Court. In 2017, only 24 of 424 jury summonses were issued during the January sitting.

In March this year, Justice Martin Gayle called for the issues with St James’ jury list to be addressed in order to get more persons obeying summonses for duty. He made that call after 26 jurors appeared for empanelling in a murder case for which 35 summonses were served.

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