Court runs out of jurors in firearms trial

| 17/02/2010

Cayman Islands News Grand Cayman headlien news, Cayman justice system(CNS): One of the many challenges facing the Cayman Islands criminal justice system was brought in to sharp focus on Tuesday morning when the Grand Court ran out of jurors from this session’s jury pool before it could make a seven person panel for a firearms trial. A combination of challenges from both the defence team of attorneys and the crown, as well as the jurors’ knowledge of the four defendants and witnesses involved in the particular case, left the court staff trawling the streets of George Town to find enough people to sit for the trial of Keith Orrett, Brian Borden, Bjorn Ebanks and Keith Montaque.

The four men are all charged with possession of unlicensed firearms after police discovered the weapons in a house in West Bay in 2008. Their jury trial was due to start on Tuesday morning. However, as the court began the process of panelling a seven person jury from the current pool of around fifty people, the entire panel was dismissed after only four people were sworn to serve.

With the four defence attorneys having five challenges each, the prosecution with twenty, plus the fact that so many of the jurors were well acquainted with the defendants or the witnesses, juror after juror was dismissed. With only four people on the panel and the pool exhausted, Justice Charles Quin, who is presiding over the trial, ordered the clerk of court to take to the streets of George Town and find people to serve.

An additional juror who is summoned on the spot to make up for a deficiency in a jury panel is known as a talesman, and on this occasion the court needed to find three. In the first attempt nine people were found in and around the George Town area who met the criteria required for jury service — being on the electoral roll and not having any criminal prosecutions. However, only two women were able to serve from that extra pool, forcing the clerk to hit the streets once again for the final member. After another eight people were rounded up, one man was finally selected and sworn in to make up the necessary seven member jury for a trial of this type of offence.

Each and every Grand Court session the justice system faces a number of problems with jurors, not just because they are afraid to serve because of potential threats but because they are often too familiar with the defendants or the witnesses. Combined with a relatively small electoral roll of just over 15,000, many of whom are still not eligible to serve on a jury due to their type of employment, age, criminal record, or other circumstances, and who are difficult to locate as the addresses have not been updated since Hurricane Ivan, the courts face increasing problems swearing in jurors who can serve impartially.

Although the court bailiff selects around 120 people for the jury panel for each court session from the most recent edition of the register of voters, if the details are not correct it is not always possible for the bailiff to find the people listed. Anyone who has served on any of the last six panels will also be excluded from the new list, and as it is a random procedure designed to ensure impartiality and an even distribution to as many citizens as possible, many people who do not meet the criteria or who have a legitimate reason to be excluded will wind up on the list.

With criminal cases increasing in the Grand Court year on year, the goal of securing enough impartial men and women to ensure the basic human right of any individual charge with a serious crime is becoming even more problematic.

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  1. slowpoke says:

     CNS, you mention a couple of things I wonder if you could expound on or give us links to.

    1."due to their type of employment" – I know lawyers are exempt, but is there a list of exempt professions?  I thought that people such as teachers, nurses, doctors had to submit aletter requesting exemption but that it was not automatic.

    2. "who have a legitimate reason to be excluded" what is considered a legitimate excuse?

    Just asking (as a registered voter of many years, who has never been called)

    CNS Note: Yes lawyers, doctors and minsters of religion are all automatically exempt and in certain circumstances many others are excluded as well. Here’s the link about jury service.

  2. Beachboi says:

    I am a born Caymanian of 48 year of age.  I have been registered to vote for as long as I can remember that you actually had to be registered.  Needless to say it has been a long time, and I have never been called as a prospective juror.  I have a valid license, which I have had since they used to be the little white booklets, and a clean police record.  Why haven’t I been called to jury duty??  Can someone in the judiciary answer this question??

  3. 2 cents says:

    I’m a registered voter, never been called to serve, neither has anyone in my immediate family or circle of friends.  Yes I have moved homes but always kept my info up to date.  This shouldnt be happening

  4. Anonymous says:

    My experience as a juror

    I was 8 months pregnant and they found me and served me for jury duty.  It was my first and last time in 36 years that I got served.  I signed up to vote from the age of 18.  When I got there every time they picked the names by "random" my name came up "randomly"everytime!!.  but was excused because I was a close friend of the crown prosecutor at the time.

    A week later I got picked for a case, they dismissed us for the day to show up the next day, when we went to court the next day we found out that they were going to try the case by Judge alone!!  No one from the court office called us to let us know anything, I walked to the court house from my work place (which was not close) because of the problem with parking, I was so upset because I then had to Wobble all the way back.

    I have come to the consultion that the reason they haven’t called me back yet is because they felt sorry for me.  

  5. Anonymous says:

    It seems that in the state of Florida, as long as you have a Florida driver’s license, you can be summoned for jury duty. I recall a few years ago, a family member was summoned for jury duty in Miami and he is not a citizen or green card holder and lives in Cayman. Seems to me that there is nothing wrong with others serving as jurors. I am over 60 years old and Caymanian by birth and I have never been called for jury duty. I am on the voters’ list. However, I believe too many people are exempt because of their profession and/or where they work or their age. 

  6. Anonymous says:

    I am flabbergasted to hear that some registered voters have never been called for jury duty. 

    I have been called twice (in 15 years) and know of several persons who have been called at least twice in 6/7 years. We are all long-term employees at the same firm and almost every session, we have at least  two persons from our firm who are summoned. .

    Obviously, people change home and work addresses  so my guess is the court staff take the easy way out and keep going back to the same people where they can find them.

  7. Anonymous DPD says:

    Finger Prints and a proper data base of our Islands people would help.

  8. Anonymous says:

    If you want me as an ex-pat that has no rights here, including keeping my job, to serve on your juries because you can’t find unpredjudiced jurors then go jump in the nearest body of water you can find. I had to serve on juries in my country and I did it out of civic duty, not because I was afraid or didn’t want someone to know I convicted them. Grow up and learn how to be a community that does not tolerate bad behavior and learn to stand up for what is right in this world. Quit protecting the bad family and friends that maim, rob and kill and learn how to be a good member of society. So one writer says he/she doesn’t register to vote to avoid jury duty. What a great  member of the Caymanian community he represents. How many more of these people are out there? Many I suspect – and that is why you have the same people being elected every four (4) years – complete and total apathy. Oh! But these are the Caymanians that should be the CEO’s of the financial industries and who all the ex-pats are taking their jobs. I guess these same people would say they didn’t get a fair trial because the ex-pats wanted them in prison so they could take their financial jobs away from them. When I can keep my job and vote here then I will serve on a jury – not until then.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I’m a registered voter / naturalised / status.. but haven’t ever been called for jury duty…. I wonder how often they update the jury lists ? 

    • Dennie Warren Jr. says:

      I’m a registered too voter and have never been called for jury duty either!

    • Anonymous says:

      I am also a registered voter. Caymanian by birth, who doesn’t know (I’d wager) a good 80% of the defendants. I’ve been registered for 10 years now and have NEVER been called for jury duty.

    • Anonymous DPD says:

      I Find that the main reason for this is due to proper records. The community in a whole in Cayman lacks the information data base. We do not provide current information about us as fequent to Government data systems. This is part of the reason Cayman has so much crime. We a without knowledge of each other in these times. There is no more I know who you are in Cayman, It is more like "Who you is?" now.

  10. Anonymous says:

    This is of course all in MY OPINION!


    I’ve been living here 23 year with my Family, and it really does sadden me as to what is going on with increase in Crime.

    One of the main reasons like so many others that moved here with Family was the fact that it was a safe place to raise kids. You were able to let them play outside with minimum supervision.

    I don’t think any one department or any one person is to blame for all this. It’s a collective of departments that fail us for one reason or another.

    The legal system for one must change, if we don’t have back up from the courts, then how can the Police do their job properly?

    I think the Government has known for a long time they had a problem with what they call "groups". They are "Gangs". I went to the High School here, and I witnessed a little bit of it in the 90’s.  I can’t imagine what it must be like now.  You must need bullet proof vest to go to School.  The Students ruled – NOT the teachers! 

    Denial!  We have a problem Cayman!  a 4 yr old kid was innocently killed!  For What?!  FOR NOTHING.

    Let some of the big boys from the UK come and help us get rid of the waste of spacers! 


  11. Anonymous says:

    There is no excuse for this. I have been summoned and served as a juror once in my life – exactly 30 years ago this year!! I bet there are many like me. So my question is, what is the ‘turnover’ time for jurors??

    Surely the pool of Caymanians is not as small as this folly would make it out to be. Seems more like inept civil service administration (like many other things) than limited juror pool!! No??

  12. Judge Judy says:

    Just put the trial off another couple weeks, that should give the posse long enough to get back from Vancouver and recover enough, woula, another dozen or so eligible and available jurors, who owe the Country some of their time in return for their free vacation.

  13. Anonymous says:

    I believe the idea of opening up jury service to qualified Caymanian Status holders and work permit holders has some merit.  Many of them originate from countries using the English system of law so the concept is familar to them.  Even better, they are probably not familiar with the accused or his family and don’t fear reprisals in much the way Caymanians might.

    • Anonymous says:

      You must be joking.  If the country can’t find 7 good men & true (or women) from the ranks of born Caymanians, then why would foreigners step in to do what we locals can’t or won’t.  Dream on.

      So those expats can’t vote but must uphold the judicial system on behalf of the rest of us who only have a mouth for online forums ?  Shame on us.

    • Anonymous says:

      Wed 17:14

      Bull! Why should anyone help a society that denies them full rights-like the vote-even though they pay taxes.Let the blessed, sacrosanct, law-abiding born Caymanians be the only ones on the jury panel list.

      • Anonymous says:

         I assume the person who wrote Wed 17:14 should have their bags packed and ready to leave the Island. The audacity of foreigners coming here and spilling their discontent when they can go back home and have the kind of life that they want to live.

        If Cayman is such a bad place, go home! Why stay and subject yourself to a situation that is not healthy for you mentally and spiritually?

        I would never go to the US, UK or Canada to live because I don’t like their moral values and the inherent institutional racism. So rather than I live there and have a miserable existence, I will stay in my country where things might not be perfect, but tolerable for me. 

        As a Caymanian I accept the benefits and costs of being a small nation. Unlike the unmannered expats, I would never live in another man’s country and complain when there is an option for me to go back home. As bad and authoritative as McKeeva might be, i don’t remember him holding any foreigner here against their will. So if you don’t like Caymanians or the government, go home!! 

        Lastly, the right to vote is not a right but a privilege to the group of people that have a vested interest in country, that being born Caymanians, status holders and permanent resident. Since reformation of immigration policies that option of transient residents becoming permanent is limited has been limited. However, that is our policy so either you accept or move on. As we have seen over the recent years, every nation has implemented policies to protect their own people and why should cayman be any different?

        So to sum it up Mr/ Ms Wed 17:14, if you have such a problem with Cayman get a one way ticket back to the hogsty you are coming from. That way, your problem would be solved.

        • frank rizzo says:

          I think we must be looking at different Wed 17:14 posts. The one I read has nothing to merit such a venomous response. You got issues.

  14. Anonymous says:

    I am not a registered voter for the simple reason that the jury selection process is nothing but a jerk around for the jurors, called, dismissed called dismissed over and over again.  While I would like to serve my country in this regard, the judicial system has to show me some regard to.  To go to town, find parking, sit and wait and then be dismissed is disrespectful to me and I have better things to do than be jerked around, but people that think I am some kind of pawn.  Open it up to the expats.

    • Anonymous says:

      In my opinion you have an incredibly selfish point of view.

      1. In any country jury duty is a necessary CIVIC DUTY. Maybe it is somewhat inconvenient, but your level of whining really isn’t appropriate for the situation.

      2. The courts aren’t "jerking you around" they are ensuring that the defendant has a right to a FAIR TRIAL by a jury of his peers. Would you prefer they cut corners so less people have to be inconvenienced? That’s a scary thought.

      3. Most people register to vote so that they can VOTE IN ELECTIONS, not so they can be called to jury duty. You really won’t register to exercise your democratic right simply because being called for jury duty would be such a pain? That is really, really sad.

      • Anonymous says:

        Yep that’s the great thing about democracy, you have the right to your opinion and so do I.  I also have the right to choose and I choose not to vote because the voters list is where jurors are summoned from and I choose not to do my ‘civic duty’ as you call it.  When the judicial system will be civil to me then I will be civil to them, I refuse to be treated as a second class citizen, just because a bunch of people that dress up and wear wigs think they are better than me!

    • Judge Judy says:

      Good for you buddy, I’m with you. Not like there is anyone worth voting for anyway so why bother.

  15. Anonymous says:

    There are a goood number of people who could be called…. e.g. the Caymanians(sorry paper Caymanians) who are not afforded full rights such as a vote Many, like myyself ,have links to Cayman going back years and wish to maak that Cayman the best it can be, but becauuse  they are refused thee right to vote , often on for unsuree reasons, they are not available for jury service. In a country as small as this where people do know each other and this limits those available to a jury, perhaps it is time to extend the criterion for jury service as this would inncrease thee number os peoople available for service.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yikes, would shudder if I was the accused and my fate rested in your hands!!!!

      • Joe Average says:

        Ladies and Gentlemen have you reached a verdict?

        Yeast, wee haves you whonor.



  16. Anonymous says:

     It is a wonder that this particular post which is so important in relation to the prosecution of criminals in Cayman has met with complete silence from the vocal majority in this country.  You know, the ones who think that the government is selling out Cayman.  What happens when the criminals become aware that the judicial system cannot find jurors to sit on trials.  Will they ask government to enact legislation disbanding trial by jurors. Would like to see how that would go over here.   Remarkable that the judicial system could not find 7 impartial Caymanians to sit on a jury.  Amazing.  What will happen next?  

  17. durrrr says:

    Said it before, and I’ll say it again…. its time to open up the jury pool to work permit holders

    • frank rizzo says:

      Yeah, let them spend some time in the crosshairs.

    • Patricia X says:

      Novote, no turn up.  Easy.

    • Anonymous says:

      What do you see as the incentive for a person holding a work permit to be added to the jury pool, except a nice gesture out of the goodness of their heart? 

    • Ex-Pat Bhoy says:

      I thought we knew nothing of this country’s great heritage and culture so we could not participate in civic functions. 

  18. Anonymous says:

    No doubt that this problem will only get worse as in cases of gang or violence many do not want to serve on juries.