Barbara Gayle, Justice Coordinator
Some defence lawyers and prosecutors yesterday joined forces to criticise the authorities for their failure to take adequate steps to ensure that citizens are available for jury service.
"Many jurors would want to do their civic duty, but they just don't have lunch money or bus fare to attend court," prosecutor Michele Salmon said.
The lawyers were voicing their disapproval of the fact that a murder case which was ready for trial had to be put off to January 7 next year because of insufficient jurors.
Only 19 jurors were in attendance and at least 26 jurors should have been in attendance for jury selection.
Twelve jurors are required to try a murder case, but after nine jurors were selected yesterday at the Home Circuit Court, no other jurors were available.
Defence lawyers Vincent Wellesley and Latoya Errar, who are representing the accused, Stacey Ann Forsythe, told The Gleaner their client was very disappointed that her case could not proceed. Forsythe has been before the court since 2010 and yesterday was the third trial date. She is on bail.
Wellesley said the problem with jurors was not a legal problem but a political one. He said nothing could be done about the jury problem unless policymakers do something about it.
He said he was going to ask his colleagues to remain out of court for one week because the jury problem was affecting the progress of cases that were ready for trial. He also commented on the huge backlog of cases which were being traversed term after term.
Prosecutor Sahai Whittingham Maxwell said the $500 given daily to jurors who actually serve was not enough, adding that they had to wait for months before they were reimbursed.
Whittingham Maxwell said the courts outside Kingston faced similar problems with shortages of jurors and that some of the jurors just could not find bus fare and lunch money to attend court when summoned.