"I swear to...a true verdict give"
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AbstractJudges will frequently canvass the jury panel prior to jury selection as to any reasons why its members may not be able to adhere to their oath. Yet, the biggest challenge to prospective jurors will be the parties' lawyers with their challenges. An accused charged with the most serious offences (such as murder) has 12 to 20 peremptory challenges. All other accused have four. While the prosecution is entitled to only four peremptory challenges, it may stand aside any number of prospective jurors up to 48 without any special reason. (Lawyers will ask a juror to stand aside simply because they have a gut reaction about a juror; there are no questions asked in the peremptory challenges or stand asides). Once a lawyer has challenged a juror, a kind of mini-trial takes place. Challenges are tried by either the last two jurors sworn, or two panel members are sworn for that particular purpose. The most common ground upon which a juror is challenged for cause is that the juror is biased. In questioning the prospective juror, lawyers may only ask questions about the particular problem, and must not use the challenge as a means of indoctrinating or influencing the jury or for the purpose in determining the personality, beliefs or prejudices of any juror. A juror's prior knowledge of the case is not conclusive of any partiality even where a tentative opinion has been formed. If the challenge for cause fails, the challenger still has available the peremptory challenge or the stand aside. Overall, the jury selection process is designed to produce representative and fair juries, not favourable ones for any side. The most notorious recent case involving juror misconduct was the Gillian Guess case. During the longest criminal jury trial in BC, the accused made seven calls to a juror's residence during the trial and one call within two hours of the acquittal. He came to her house during the trial, and they had an affair. The juror said: "He's majorly putting on the vibes, majorly coming onto me." The court found that the mere fact of that relationship, without more, constituted a flagrant violation of her oath as a juror sworn to be impartial as between the accused and the Queen.
Article deposited after permission was granted by the editor of LawNow magazine, 06/28/2010.