Former Bundaberg surgeon Jayant Patel (left) leaves the court with barrister Kenneth Fleming.
Former Bundaberg surgeon Jayant Patel (left) leaves the court with barrister Kenneth Fleming.

Jurors creating history when they are polled in Patel trial

JURORS deciding whether Jayant Patel was responsible for the death of a Bundaberg man will be creating Queensland history when they are polled before their selection on Wednesday.

Arguments over whether the jurors should be able to provide their answers in open court and what topics they should be quizzed about were heard in the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

It will be a first in Queensland for jurors to be polled and follows concerns about the degree of publicity surrounding Dr Patel and his alleged crimes.

Both Dr Patel's legal team and the Crown argued that jurors should not be cross-examined in open court to allow them to give honest and frank answers.

But Supreme Court Justice Henry Fryberg said it was fundamental that the impartiality of jurors be scrutinised.

"It's a fundamental principal that our courts operate in public and justice is seen to be done in public," he said.

He said the public deserved to make its own decision on the impartiality of jurors. Justice Fryberg, the Crown and defence agreed closed court applications would be put forward in relation to individual jurors and specific questions when the polling occurs.

"The way we go about it is going to be a precedent for the future," Justice Fryberg said. Defence barrister Kenneth Fleming said he could see the polling process being poured over "for years to come in great detail".

The jurors' answers to a questionnaire about their knowledge of Dr Patel's case, following widespread media coverage of his alleged crimes, will be on the public record.

Mr Fleming questioned whether the jurors would be recorded under the real names or given numbers.

"This is not a mafia trial," Justice Fryberg said before stating the jurors should have names.

Dr Patel, who was in court on with his wife, will face trial for the manslaughter of Mervyn Morris.Mr Morris, 74, died weeks after Dr Patel operated on him at Bundaberg Base Hospital in 2003.