Jury Trial verus Trail by Judge

  • 10-26-2015

For years the court system has struggled with finding sufficient jurors so as to allow trials to proceed. In my opinion the primary reason for members of the public being reluctant to act as jurors is the fear of reprisal if they reach a guilty verdict thereby putting the live and/or liberty of an accused at stake. Acting as a juror in Jamaica cannot be seen as an honour when one’s life can be at stake.

We all know the jury system is based on the notion that an accused must be tried by a  panel of his/her peers. However, with the problem that the court system faces when a jury is to be empanelled makes it imperative that the Justice system starts looking at allowing  judges to try these cases without a jury. With our unfortunate situation in Jamaica it is much better to have these types of  trials by a single Judge or 3 Judges (as is the case in the Court of Appeal)  rather than have the accused languish away in prison because of lack of jurors.

If we force persons to act as jurors we may end up with verdicts that are totally out of line with the evidence presented.

It may be argued that Judges may be biased but I would have more faith in a trial by a single Judge or a panel of 3 Judges rather than a trial with jurors who are on the panel completely against their wishes.

There may be another option to consider and that is creating a system where we have career jurors. This way the system would embark on training a cadre of persons to become jurors at least for matters above the Resident Magistrate’s level. These persons would be paid by the government and are employees of the Ministry of Justice. These persons could be drawn from a pool of active retired professionals who though retired are not very keen on staying home all day and are eager to embark on a new career.

The issue is the present jury system does not work in Jamaica and failure to have  a system that works is a disgrace to the present justice system. It is now compelling that we think outside the box and quickly restore faith in our justice system.


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