If you are involved in a civil court case in The Bahamas, you may wonder whether a jury trial is available. In civil court cases, only a judge presides over Bahamian court trials without a jury present. In criminal cases, though, a jury usually hears the evidence.
What Is a Jury Trial?
During a jury trial, the jury listens to all of the testimony by witnesses and looks at the documents in evidence. The jury makes the ultimate decision in the case about the facts. In contrast, the judge makes all decisions about questions of law that arise during the trial.
Juries in The Bahamas consist of groups of people selected from a pool of eligible local residents, typically taken from the voters list. To serve on a jury, you must be a local resident and over age twenty-one. You cannot have been convicted of a crime, be of unsound mind, or have any contagious disease. In addition, there are many exemptions for people who do not have to serve as jurors because of their occupations or situations, listed in the Juries Act.
When Is a Jury Trial Available?
If the value of the property in dispute does not exceed B$5,000, then the matter would be heard in the Magistrates' Court and the trial would be before a magistrate. There are no jury trials in the Magistrates' Court.
Judges preside over the trials in matters filed in the Supreme Court of The Bahamas, regardless of whether there is a jury. In criminal cases, the defendant is entitled by law to have a trial by jury if they so choose.
When a jury is present for the trial of a matter, the judge may need to give the jurors special instructions at the beginning of the trial, as the evidence is presented, and at the end before the jurors make a decision. Further, the jury may need to inspect items or places during the trial, such as an item of evidence or a specific location where events took place. At the end of the trial, the jurors deliberate and make a final decision about the facts of the case.
To find out more about jury trials in The Bahamas, visit Gonsalves-Sabola Chambers online or call the office at +1 242 326 6400.