Jury surveyed over Bush bias

| 10/09/2014

(CNS) Updated: The pool of jurors from which the men and women who will try former premier McKeeva Bush will be drawn have been given a survey by the presiding judge in order to eliminate any real or perceived bias on the panel. Visiting judge Justice Michael Mettyear explained that Bush’s long career in politics meant most people knew him but it did not entitle him to any special favours. However, it also meant he had the right to a fair trial and to be treated equally. Jurors were given a survey with a selection of questions in order to elicit their political positions, any strong feelings for or against Bush or on the issue of gambling, which the judge said would be a feature of the case.

The judge gave the jurors an hour and a half Wednesday to answer the questions truthfully before he retired to his chambers to consider their answers and if necessary eliminate those who could either be biased or be seen to be biased from the overall list before selecting the jury. He said that the court was relying on jurors to be honest when answering the questions.

The judge made it clear that the goal was to ensure that the jury, once selected, could try the opposition leader based purely on the evidence that would be before them during the anticipated four week trial, which is now expected to open on Monday, and not on any other basis. He explained how important it was for the jury to be seen by the wider public to be unbiased.

Expected at first to begin selecting the jury on Wednesday afternoon, the judge postponed the process until Thursday morning as he indicated more time was needed to analyse the answers that had been given.

Around one hundred people in the current jury pool were given the jury survey, which included eleven questions about their views on the defendant and whether those views could prevent them from trying Bush fairly. It also asked them if they had strong feelings about gambling and in particular the use of slot machines, whether they had contributed to the recent public debate surrounding the use of government credit cards, whether they weremembers of or if they had ever worked with any political parties or in any government department in which Bush had been minister.

They were asked if they or close family members had worked in numerous other government departments, including the police and the offices of the auditor general and the governor, or if they had worked with some of the local media. The survey also asked about any direct non-political relationships they may have with Bush or his family as well as any relationship with the witnesses in the case.

During his directions to the panel the judge emphasised the need for Bush to have a fair trial given his position and long history of public office. He described it as an “interesting and important case”, which he said was not overly complex but would be detailed.

“We need a jury that can try Mr Bush fairly and solely on the evidence in court,” he said, as he spoke about the need for the jurors to be objective. He explained that it would be inappropriate for anybody with political views adverse or in favour of Bush to serve on the jury.

The jurors were directed to return to the court Thursday at 10am, when it is understood that the panel will be reduced as a result of the questionnaires. A jury will then be randomly selected in the usual way from the reduced pool.

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