Saturday, May 12, 2012

Jury Secrecy Needs a Re-think

The pratice of keeping jury deliberations secret in Canada needs to be reevaluated and in my view changed. The process by which jurors arrive at their decisions can provide us with a wealth of useful information which can be of assistance in ensuring that justice has been served. As one who has been involved in both civil and criminal jury trials I have often felt that jurors may have been more interested in going home to their families and the like than to ensuring that justice is done. By my way of thinking if a jury which has been sitting on a case for six weeks plus decides that it has had enough and convicts a defendant on all charges merely to be able to go home, such conduct ought to be of interest to anyone who is truly interested in justice. According to one popular legal maxim justice must be seen to be done. The delegation of such an important part of the adjudicative process in the absence of safeguards to ensure soundly arrived at decisions and the avoidance of wrongful convictions seems more concerned with legitimizing results through community involvement rather than seeing that justice is done. Verdict Inquiry by Trial Judge: In the same way that trial judges now conduct a plea inquiry to ensure that a defendant is acting voluntarily - trial judges ought to be granted the authority to perform some form of inquiry into the jury's decision-making process. The sole purpose of this inquiry would be to ensure that jury decisions and especially criminal convictions are arrived at in accordance with law rather than whim. I envision each juror being asked some questions - where counsel for the parties would have input on the questions - and their responses would be made in open court and reported by a verbatim reporter. This process would be open to the public and the media. Note: This piece is written for the sole purpose of drawing attention to an issue of public importance.

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