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Fair trial for all

marciadottin, [email protected]

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DESPITE ALL THE EMOTIONALISM associated with the deadly Tudor Street fire, the men charged with the arson attack are sure to get a fair trial.
Acting Attorney General Michael Lashley said yesterday that accused persons were guaranteed a fair trial under the Constitution of Barbados.
The former defence attorney also noted that it was the right of all accused to challenge the inclusion of any juror being empanelled to hear his or her matter.
Former Attorney General Dale Marshall made the point that in handling other sensational cases, the island’s justice system had shown its capacity to deal with the facts and render a fair verdict.
But lawyer David Comissiong has called for tighter jury selection and even sequestering of the jury to guarantee a fair trial.
Marshall said the issue of getting a fair trial was always a matter of concern in small jurisdictions where headline-making crimes were committed.
However, the independence and professionalism of judges and their directions to juries to go after the facts and not be swayed by emotions went a long way to guaranteeing fairness in verdicts, he told the DAILY NATION.
He said this was seen in the trial of seven men charged with killing Bajan-Yankee Earlyn Garnes in January 1991 at Pelican Village car park in St Michael.
“That case was just as sensational as this one and that was our biggest murder trial, given the number of accused, but justice still prevailed,” Marshall said.
“I have no doubts whatsoever that those people accused in the case of the Campus Trendz fire will get a fair trial.”
Necessary change
However, Comissiong said it would be necessary to change the jury selection method and have “potential jurors questioned quite extensively about their attitude to the events underlying the case”, as is done in the United States.
He also favoured sequestering the jurors, keeping them together until the case was completed.
“This is a case where the system is really going to have to go to extremes to ensure the two young men get a fair trial,” he said.
Sequestering the jury
Veteran lawyer and former Government minister Rawle Eastmond admitted he was not against sequestering the jury “to prevent them from being threatened or offered any inducements to render a verdict one way or the other”.
But according to Marshall there was no factual basis for making this recommendation.
Eastmond also said “when all the passions cool down”, the accused would get a fair trial, given the way the local justice system operates. (TY)