Following claims and counter claims over government lawyers influencing members of a jury to bring down a verdict in their favor, defense lawyers are gradually avoiding their cases from being decided by jurors.
Juror tampering is a criminal offense characterized by attempts to influence members of a jury by means other than evidence and arguments presented in court, according to a legal expert.
“This act should be a considerable concern for the legal system,” the expert warned, adding, “The goal of holding a trial is to provide people with a fair, honest and complete hearing with a jury that decides the case on the basis of information presented in court.”
To make their decision interesting, last Monday, lawyers representing four former employees of the Liberia Coco-Cola Bottling Company (LCCBC) accused of stealing over US$1.8 million openly informed Judge Peter Gbeneweleh of Criminal Court ‘C’ that they waved their clients rights under the law to be tried by a jury.
At Monday’s hearing, Judge Gbeneweleh granted the defense team’s request after a member of the prosecution team, Cllr. Theophilus Gould, gave no objection.
Another instance is the ongoing US$6 million Private Use Permit case, at the same Criminal Court ‘C,” where lawyers representing four dismissed senior managers of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA), and a senior surveyor at the Ministry of Land, Mines and Energy (MLME) avoided jury trial.
Meanwhile the court had recruited several individuals to serve as jurors, who will be paid by taxpayers’ money even if they did not hear a single case for the 42 days for which they were selected to serve as jurors.
According to the expert, the result of jury tampering is a false verdict or mistrial both of which, he said, “are costly for the legal system and delay justice in the case at hand.”
He indicated that there were numerous ways that people can try to influence jurors. “These include bribes threats, and unauthorized communications.”
He added, “Juror tampering can come from attorneys, defendants, plaintiffs, and members of the public with an interest in the case.”
He also advised that if a juror is approached by someone, who is attempting to engage in juror tampering or has reason to believe that another juror is involved in tampering, it must be reported.
“If jurors are tampered with, and this is not identified in time, this could have an influence on the verdict that would result in a miscarriage of justice,” he added.