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Stabroek News

Judge blasts coroners poor jury selection
published: Friday | September 29, 2006

Barbara Gayle, Staff Reporter

The selection of jurors at the dilapidated building housing the Corporate Area Coroner's Court came under judicial fire last week when a Supreme Court judge ruled that the selection was flawed and ordered Coroner Patrick Murphy to pay the legal costs for a new inquest.

Justice Lennox Campbell, in handing down his decision, found that section 18 of the Jury Act which was mandatory, was breached because there were some jurors sitting in the Coroner's Court on repeated occasions, within a nine-month period.

"This flawed selection process is aggravated by the involvement of agents of the state being involved in the killing of the deceased," the judge said. The judge said the relevant section mandated the registrar to make up panels for service so that "all jurors shall be summoned equally."

Another inquest

The coroner and the Attorney-General were named as respondents and the judge ordered that due to the defect in the selection process, it was desirable in the interest of justice, that another inquest be held by the coroner of an adjoining parish.

Coroner Murphy was ordered to pay the applicant's legal costs of the judicial review hearing, as well as the legal costs for the new inquest.

Dionne Holness, a 56-year-old businesswoman who was the applicant, had brought the application to quash the jury's verdict concerning the death of her 20-year-old son, Dwayne Graham, of 57 Waltham Park Road, Kingston 11.

Graham was fatally shot by the police at the intersection of Espeut Avenue and Waltham Park Road, on June 19, 2003.

The jury found that Graham's death was due to multiple gunshot wounds and his death was a result of justifiable homicide and no one was criminally responsible.

Holness, who was supported by the lobby group Jamaicans for Justice, contended in the Judicial Review Court that the jury selection had been defective.

She relied on the affidavit of Tasha Rodney who said she noticed over a nine-month period that the court used some of the same persons repeatedly as jurors, and some of those same jurors sat on the inquest into Graham's death.

Coroner Murphy said in his affidavit that it was correct that in some cases "some jurors are repeated due to the perennial difficulty in securing the attendance of suitable persons as jurors."

Attorney-at-law Shawn Wilkin-son, who represented Holness, referred to section 21 of the Coroner's Act which allows for another inquest to be held, if it is necessary or desirable in the interest of justice.

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