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Lack of jurors causes trial delays

Guardian Senior Reporter

Published: Oct 07, 2013

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The prosecution was ready to proceed and so were the judges, but two criminal trials could not proceed last week because of a lack of quorum in the jury pool.

The Nassau Guardian understands that a staff shortage in the bailiffs’ office was the reason that two courts did not have the required complement of 48 jurors to begin the selection process.

According to a source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, two of the five bailiffs responsible for serving summonses on jurors were out sick last week, forcing adjournments in a murder trial before Justice Bernard Turner and an arson trial before Justice Carolita Bethell.

Bethell, who was appointed to the Criminal Bench earlier this year, does not have a dedicated bailiff or a jury room, the source said.

The source said the bailiff section does not have its own vehicle and only two members of staff receive a modest stipend for gas.

The other bailiffs have to use their personal resources to ensure that there are sufficient jurors so the courts are able to function.

The source said, “There’s a car for the accounts section, for the human resources section but there’s no transportation for bailiffs.”

The Guardian understands that staff members often have to visit homes multiple times in order to serve summonses.

While addressing the Constitutional Commission earlier this year, Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson suggested reforms in the constitution that would allow bench trials for certain criminal matters to address deficiencies in the jury system.

“These include the peculiar problems associated with small jurisdictions, where members of the jury pool may have to recuse themselves from matters where they know or are known to defendants, and the increase of insidious acts such as attempts to improperly influence or intimidate members of the jury,” she said.

The commission later recommended changes in legislation that would define the exceptional circumstances in which criminal matters may be tried by a judge alone.

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