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Courts running short of jurors

Published:Tuesday | April 17, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Barbara Gayle, Staff Reporter

The courts are facing a serious problem with insufficient jurors to try cases, especially in multiple accused murder cases.

Yesterday, Senior Puisne Judge Gloria Smith stressed that if the situation continued then the legislation would have to be changed so that the cases could be tried without jurors.

Smith called for public education to be undertaken to inform the people of their civic duty.

She made the comment when only 38 jurors turned up yesterday at the Home Circuit Court.

Although the prosecution was ready to proceed with several cases which were set for trial, the cases were put off for various reasons including insufficient jurors and absent witnesses.

In one case, an accused man was given time to settle legal representation in a case which had been on the court list since 2009.

Smith warned the accused that the case was going to proceed at the next trial date with or without a lawyer.

Can't be found

Smith, in commenting further on the jury problem, said people were always holding up placards crying for justice but when they were summoned to serve as jurors they failed to attend or the summonses were returned with the endorsement "can't be found".

"Everybody wants justice but don't want to assist in the dispensation of justice" the judge remarked.

One of the cases which had to be put off yesterday was that of Harry McLeod, popularly known as 'Harry Dog', reputed top lieutenant of former west Kingston strongman Christopher 'Dudus' Coke.

McLeod is charged jointly with three other men for the murder of Damion Henry, of Tivoli Gardens, west Kingston, who was shot dead on June 8, 2008, on Spanish Town Road, Kingston.

McLeod and two of the accused men were pointed out at an identification parade in April 2011.

The case was set for trial yesterday but the court was informed that the sole eyewitness said he would not be available for court before tomorrow.

The men have been ordered to return to court tomorrow when the trial is expected to start.

Smith has warned that if the witness failed to attend then steps would be taken to bring him to court.

The judge also instructed that efforts be made to get additional jurors to attend court because at least 68 jurors were required for jury selection in McLeod's case.