Understanding the Law
January 14, 2005
The panel of jurors

The jurors would have to spend a long time in courts if the case is a complex one. They must listen attentively and observe the demeanour of the witnesses as they are examined and cross-examined. At the end of the day they are dismissed and cautioned by the judge not to discuss the case with anyone outside the group. The jury is normally dismissed at about 4 o’clock, but if the judge has already delivered his summation then the jury will have to retire to the jury room to consider the verdict. {{more}}

Absence of a juror

Once the panel is chosen every juror must be present at all times until the case is finally concluded. There could be serious implications if a juror is absent. If a juror becomes incapable of serving or is absent, the judge will out of an abundance of caution adjourn the case until the juror could be present. The absence of a juror could not only provide a ground for an appeal but reason for a guilty verdict to be overturned in the Court of Appeal. Unlike the United States of America we do not have alternative jurors.

A jury of 11 instead of 12 convicted the accused in the case (retrial) of Newton Spence v The Queen (No. 20 of 1998). The Privy Council decided that it amounted to a material irregularity, a technical blunder and the appellant’s conviction was quashed. It therefore asked the Court of Appeal to ‘consider whether there ought to be a retrial’. The Court of Appeal decided that a retrial was not in the interest of justice. The appellant’s conviction therefore remained quashed.

Punishment for non-attendance

If a person summoned for jury duty is not in court when his name is called, he is liable to a fine of $40 for every day he is absent. If after he is sworn in he leaves the court without permission or without reasonable excuse he is also liable to a fine in the same amount.

The Jury in Court

The jury has a serious duty to perform. He is depended on to give a verdict based on the evidence. The jury is the object of attention. At the beginning of the case the prosecutor addresses the jury. He gives an overview of the case and prepares it for the witnesses that would come before it.

Special circumstances may arise during the case when the jury is asked to go to the jury room because evidence that could be prejudicial to the accused is not discussed in the presence of the jury. Where there is an issue as to the admissibility of a confession the matter will be discussed by the prosecutor and the defense before the judge without the jury.

After the judge has completed his summation he gives instructions for the jury to retire to the jury room to review the evidence. Where a verdict is reached under two hours it must be unanimous. That is, all jurors must have decided one way or the other guilty or not guilty. For non-capital offences (neither murder or treason) a majority verdict of two to seven and eight to one are allowed but the jury must have deliberated for more than two hours. For murder the verdict must be unanimous, that is, all jurors must decide one way or the other. There is no majority verdict.