Trial by jury must be protected
In recent times there have been calls for the replacement of jury trials with bench trials.

Dear Editor,

Long before I became a lawyer I understood as a child that the way my siblings saw and interpreted an incident/occurrence within our home was completely different from that of our single mother.

In many ways, the justice system reflects my home dynamic; my siblings/my peers were the jury and our single mother — the judge.

Before our justice system as we now know it existed, ancient societies built the foundations of justice on the pillars of an offender being tried by his peers because his peers would relate easier with his imperfections, experiences, and shortcomings as a simple human.

Trial by jury was a fundamental principle in the days of old; however, one may argue that jury trials are even more necessary now as the modern State is a powerful juggernaut with the court being the fist it uses to enforce and exact judgement — it is the jury who provides the checks and balances of our judicial system.

I literally struggle to see the difference between a jury decision and a majority vote in a democratic set-up. The majority may not always be right, but what it does for the confidence of an accused person in the judicial system is immeasurable.

I would not at any point posit that my faith in judge alone trials is nonexistent because my first and only murder trial was a judge alone trial and the accused was acquitted. What I believe is that the option to choose should be that of the accused man and that right should not be arbitrarily taken away because of expediency.

From my brief stint in law, a mere seven years, I have seen first-hand both the good and ugly sides of the law. Some lawyers will find every reason not to do a trial before a particular judge because they believe their clients are doomed from the start.

Admittedly, this author is no different. However, even with a judge who has a track record of being less prosecutorial-minded, most defence lawyers would still recommend that their clients elect to have a trial by jury instead of a trial by judge alone. Why? The answer is simple, the jury acts as a buffer and provides the proverbial ray of hope.

Jury trials are by no means enshrined in our constitution; however, absolute caution must be taken when viewing this sacrosanct pillar because my fear is that, with its removal, the walls of justice may come crashing with it.

Davion L Vassell

Attorney-at-Law

davion.vassell@gmail.com

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