A Jury of Peers - Jury Selection in Malta (Part 2)
by Dr Renè Darmanin - Associate
This article is the second part of a series of articles about the trial by jury under Maltese Criminal Law. The first part can be found here.
As explained in my previous article, a jury is ordinarily composed of a foremen and 8 common jurors. In the case of death or any obstacle of the foreman, his responsibilities shall be borne by one of the ordinary jurors as instructed by the Criminal Court.
On the day of the trial, all persons who were served with the summons to act as jurors shall appear in Court. Locally, all trials of jury are currently held inside Hall 14 and Hall 22 of the Maltese Courts of Justice.
Traditionally, the names of the persons summoned to serve as jurors were on separate ballots of parchment or paper as nearly as maybe uniform in shape and size. The registrar read audibly the ballots containing the names of the foremen and placed them into a box. Same process is repeated with respect to the common jurors. Subsequently, after shaking the box containing the ballots with the names of the foremen, one ballot is drawn and read aloud the name written thereon.
Nowadays, with the development of modern technology, the process has been replaced by a random selection software who picks up a name and such name is read out loud by the registrar.
As soon as a name is drawn, the registrar asks the Prosecution and the defence counsel whether they have any objection to such person acting as a juror. Challenges maybe either peremptory and thus made without any assigned reason or else for cause. In both cases, the person concerned shall be excluded from the jury. In those cases where the objection raised is one of cause, both parties may request the potential juror to answer some questions on oath in order to establish such cause. Every one of the accused as well as the Attorney General is allowed to make 3 peremptory challenges. An objection raised by one of the parties shall have effect on all of the other parties to the case.
If no such objection is raised, any potential juror, may show good cause and subsequently be exempted by the court from serving as a juror.
Any person who is exempted by law from serving as a juror, who fails to file the relative court application within 4 days from the service of the summons and fails to avail himself of such exemption before he is approved as a fit juror, may not claim such exemption afterwards.
As soon as the jury is constituted, each of the jurors shall take the oath, swearing to examine with the most meticulous attentiveness the charges brought against the accused, that they shall not be unfaithful to the interests of the accused and to those of the Republic of Malta, that they will not communicate with anyone without the Court’s authorisation and to determine the charges and the defence put forward impartially and according to one’s intimate conviction.
All expenses for the maintenance of the jurors during the pendency of the trial are borne by the government of Malta.
It is also worth mentioning that whosoever, in any manner, communicates or attempts to communicate with any person whose name has been drawn to serve as a juror, with intent to sway such person, whether in favour of or against the accused, shall be guilty of an offence and shall, on conviction, be liable to imprisonment for a term from three to nine months.
Dr Renè Darmanin is an Associate at PROLEGAL Advocates.
Disclaimer: This article is not to be construed as being legal advice, and is not to be acted on as such. Should you require further information or legal assistance, please do not hesitate to contact Dr Renè Darmanin at firstname.lastname@example.org.