NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The Court of Appeal yesterday quashed the fine of a juror who went on vacation during a murder trial without approval of the Supreme Court, delaying the proceedings twice.
Court of Appeals Justices Maureen Crane-Scott, Roy Jones, and Milton Evans presided over the matter.
Walcott Miller, who was named as the appellant in the matter, was sworn in as a juror along with a panel of other jurors in a Supreme Court criminal trial before Justice Bethel.
The murder trial began on January 22, 2020.
At the beginning of the trial, the juror were informed the trial would last two weeks.
Miller had planned and booked a vacation in New Orleans, Louisiana since December 2019.
“The trial commenced and it obviously went beyond the two weeks, it being a murder trial which invariably goes well beyond two weeks in any event,” read the ruling.
Miller sought to excuse himself from the trial in early February and advised the judge’s clerk he would be out of the country.
He did not obtain the leave of the court.
The Crown closed its case on February 11 and the defendant in the was ready to call witnesses in his defence.
However, Miller and other jurors were once again warned and told to return to court on February 18 for the continuation of the trial.
But Miller, without approval of the court, went on vacation.
The court waited in vain and adjourned the matter to the following day, but Miller was once again a no-show.
A warrant was issued for Miller’s arrest for failing to appear in court.
Miller returned to court on February 24 with his attorney, where he was advised he was being charged under the Juries Act.
According to Section 32 (2) of the act, “If any person, having been duly summoned to serve as a juror, refuses to serve when required by the court so to do, or if, after having been duly sworn he without leave departs the court before the verdict is given or before he is regularly discharged, the court may impose on him a fine of not more than five hundred dollars.”
Notwithstanding Miller’s defence of his actions, the judge fined him $1,000.00 — $500 more than the maximum imposition of the fine.
He appealed on the basis the judge exceeded her jurisdiction in imposing the fine of $1.000.00.
The appellate court agreed, despite the serious nature of Miller’s offense.
“Having heard counsel, including counsel for the Crown, Ms. Evans, who conceded that in fact and in law the judge had exceeded her jurisdiction, the court has determined that this sentence of a fine of $1,000.00 cannot be allowed to stand and we therefore quash it,” read the ruling.
“Having also heard both counsel with respect to what a reasonable fine might be that could be substituted by this court, we have determined that the maximum fine ought to be imposed.
“This was a serious matter. The ongoing case involved a murder trial, which was close to its completion. Everybody was waiting. The defence, as we heard from the judge in her remarks, was waiting for this gentleman to appear and basically the trial was held up due to his non-appearance. The maximum fine is fully justified in this case. We, accordingly, allow the appeal and substitute a fine of $500.00 for the now quashed $1,000.00 fine that the judge imposed.
“We have been advised that the appellant has already paid the fine of $1,000.00, which we have just quashed. In the result, he is to be credited the $500.00, being the amount overpaid.”
Attorney David Cash represented Miller.