Jury duty more important than voting – Cottle
Justice Brian Cottle has commented that he hopes there will be no more approaching of jurors, following the seriousness with which a recent case involving this was treated.
Cottle in speaking at the close of the criminal assizes last Friday commented that he believes jury duty to be “the most important thing a citizen can do. It is more important, in my view, than voting.”
He said that the jury embodies the values of the society that we live in, while indicating that he would like to highlight an incident that happened during the assizes.
The judge was referring to a June 20 incident in which he had to declare a mistrial, following a juror’s declaration that she did not feel comfortable continuing in her position. This was because a woman by the name of Jemima Woods, a cashier from Layou, had approached the juror and told the juror of a conversation she (Woods) had with the accused person in the trial. Woods told the juror that the accused said that he knew her (the juror).
Woods was charged at the Serious Offences Court with interfering with a criminal legal process by approaching a serving juror for the purpose of discussing the matter, as well as for expressing her opinion about the ongoing criminal matter to the juror.
The 33-year-old Woods pleaded guilty to the offences and she was given a prison sentence of one year suspended for one year, on the first charge, and fined $10,000 to be paid by October 1, in relation to the second charge.
It was said by Woods’ lawyer, Grant Connell, that the two, juror and Woods, have been friends for 12 years.
“The matter was treated, in my view, with the seriousness as such an approach demands. And hopefully the message has gone out, and hopefully there will be no more efforts in that regard,” Cottle stated on August 2.
He continued that the importance of the job that the jury carries out cannot be overstated, and that every effort must be taken so that they feel comfortable when performing their civic duty.
Prosecutor, crown counsel Karim Nelson also commented on the incident. “That particular juror who was approached, I know that she would have been criticized,” he stated.
“I know that she would have met with resistance for what she did,” he noted, adding, “but I just want to indicate to her that she did the right thing.”
Nelson said that in the same way that the approach of magistrate’s and judges will not be condoned, the approach of jurors will not be condoned. “Jurors are also judges, but they’re judges of the facts,” he stated.
“To that juror, you did the right thing, and I want you to feel fortified in the fact that you did the right thing,” the crown counsel for over six years concluded.