My attention was drawn to a Kaieteur News article on the 23rd January, 2012 entitled “Jury Selection Process Seriously Compromised” which I read in its entirety. Based on my little experience in the Assizes, I do agree that all is not well with the compilation of the general jury list in terms of its compliance with the quoted Act. I am however disappointed that the ‘legal official” with whom the reporter spoke did not suggest how the process could be improved.
Having read the article however, one must wonder whether the article was a ‘smoke screen’ for one of my colleagues to express disappointment and anger in not securing a conviction in a murder trial in which I was the Defence Counsel for Cyon Collier aka ‘Picture Boy.’ I have noted that the article was supposed to deal with the whole system of jury selection in the assizes but only one trial was highlighted. I think that this was a wonderful opportunity for the reporter to speak to persons from a wide spectrum of the legal fraternity so as to get diverse views and solutions to the issue of ‘Jury Selection’ and more particularly the conduct of Jury Trials.
Instead the article highlighted the selective, emotional and prejudiced views of a ‘legal official’ who is obviously a prosecutor and who is more interested in securing a conviction than being a minister of justice. This is precisely what our honourable courts have sought to speak against in several cases.
One such instance was the case of the State -v- Lloyd Harris  22 WIR 41 where Justice of Appeal JOF Haynes quoted from 1955 Criminal Law Review “The duties and responsibilities of Prosecuting Counsel” and stated at p 60 that:-
“The prosecutor is at all times a Minister of Justice, though seldom so described. It is not the duty of prosecuting counsel to secure a conviction; nor should any prosecutor ever feel pride or satisfaction in the mere fact of success. Still less should he boast of the percentage of convictions secured over a period.
The duty of the prosecutor as I see it, is to present to the tribunal a precisely formulated case for the Crown against the accused and to call evidence in support of it.”
Then later on p 61, he further stated:-
“………Always the principle holds that Counsel for the Crown is concerned with justice first, justice second and convictions a very bad third.”
As a result of the flawed perspective of the “legal official” interviewed, the persons who sat as jurors in this trial were denigrated, insulted and portrayed as being incompetent, stupid, gullible and possibly corrupt.
This is most unfortunate when it is considered that these jurors left their jobs to perform a civic duty for their Country, in Courtrooms that are not the most comfortable. Mr. Editor, I have attached a copy of the Jury List for the October Session for the perusal of the reporter and yourself so as to allow both of you to determine if the job titles of these persons fit the description of employees who Companies and Organisations, ‘have the least use for.’
Mr. Editor, I wish to bring a few matters to your attention. Throughout the trial of Cyon Collier, he was under guard by members of the Police and Prison Service and was not brought to the Court room until all the jurors were seated.
I therefore wonder when it was possible for him to speak to a juror and who allowed this. But then we are told that one of the jurors was involved in another Trial in which there was an allegation of Jury tampering and this juror should have been banned for life from Jury service.
The Trial Judge in this Trial spoke to Counsel for the accused and the State before and during the Trial and kept an open door policy throughout the conduct of this Trial and therefore it begs the question as to why a State Counsel/Prosecutor would know that a juror is not competent to be a juror in a Trial and not bring it to the attention of Judge before the Trial started or use the right of challenge. Why wait until the Jury has rendered a verdict, then denigrate the Jurors for the flaws in the evidence provided to the Prosecution by the various agencies of the State concerned with the investigation.
I am aware that Cyon Collier has to be put on trial again for this matter and therefore do not want to comment too much on the evidence led by the Prosecution, during the Trial, but I will highlight two aspects of it.
Are the Jurors to be blamed for the tendering of a Post Mortem Report which did not have a ‘cause of death’ or for the Ballistic Report being lost after it was tendered in the Magistrate Court and then given to members of the Police Force for safe keeping?
Mr. Editor, are we to believe that Judges of the High Court are so relaxed that they allow Jurors to chew gum during Trials? Isn’t it the duty of Lawyers in a Trial, upon noticing a Juror sleeping to discretely and politely bring it to the attention of the Judge?
Don’t lawyers have a similar duty, as Officers of the Court, to bring to the attention of the Judge in a timely manner an incident where a Juror is seen speaking to the accused? If this is done, which Judge in Guyana would allow that Trial to continue and the Jury to render a Verdict?
Mr. Editor, the information provided to your Reporter by this “Legal Officer” is insulting to the persons who are chosen to do Jury service and also contains information that is untrue about the conduct of the Judges of the High Court, but more significantly, the source has unwittingly shown their incompetence by allowing a jury to render a verdict in a Trial which based on the information provided to the Reporter, should have been deemed a mistrial.
In conclusion, did this ‘legal official’ who was obviously intimately involved in the Murder Trial of Cyon Collier really find the time to count the number of suits the accused wore during the Trial. Are all lawyers this idle?
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