3 Feb 2010

Trial by Jury – to be or not to be

Some days ago, Judge Volney was ‘incensed’ that a jury returned a verdict of not guilty in a murder trial. He clearly thought that the verdict ought to have gone the other way.

Now the question of intimidation and tampering has long been associated with juries. Was this particular jury as unbiased (for whatever reason) as it ought to have been? We don’t know, but the decision of the jury stands, although I believe the state has the liberty to appeal.

This morning, the question of jury tampering has once again arisen, not in any particular matter but in a more general way. The government seeks to do away with juries and have hearings in front of a judge alone.

Now, to some this may seem a sensible thing. Perhaps it is, in some instances, but I have long doubted this to be a reasonable position. It has been proposed here in England for some time, but whether is has been implemented, I am not sure; I will have to check on that.

The reason I am doubtful that this is a workable solution in Trinidad and Tobago is because of the clear corruption in the judiciary there.

Let us recall some few instances.

  • Sherman McNicolls, Chief Magistrate, and a land deal that is suspect, then and now. No investigation.
  • Sherman McNicolls, Chief Magistrate, and bias in a certain Panday matter.
  • Sherman McNicolls, Chief Magistrate, and driving without insurance.
  • Herbert Volney, High Court Judge, and a certain Brad Boyce trial.
  • Patrick Jagessar, Magistrate, now disbarred for accepting a million dollar bribe.

The list is certainly longer that that, but those are what I recall this morning in the time I am typing up this post. I know, some people going to argue that a magistrate is not a judge. Well, we all know that, but I am pointing out suspect examples in the judiciary, of which magistrates are a part.

Now, trial by judge alone sounds like a workable solution for the cases where juries are threatened, or bribed or tampered with in some manner. I have no problem with that.

Where I see the problem is how easily it is to tamper with the JUDGE in Monkey Island. For too long I have seen suspected circumstances, some sparking outrage, some sliding by without notice. There is also the question of political tampering, which lately has been more and more an issue.

Maybe the better idea would be to have a quorum of 3 judges, like an appeal court. Oh wait, now they will trot out the excuse of expense etc…

I expect to see more appeals, and more judgements being overturned. Thank the Almighty for the Privy Council, oui.