January 9, 2007 in Nation/World

Royal jury ruled out for Diana death inquiry

Associated Press The Spokesman-Review
 

LONDON – Ordinary Britons, who are divided on whether Princess Diana and her boyfriend were the victims of an accident or murder, may be called to give the official verdict on her death, a judge ruled Monday.

Nearly a decade after Diana and Dodi Fayed died in a car crash in Paris, the legal proceedings surrounding their deaths resumed at London’s Royal Courts of Justice.

The hearing was procedural, and no evidence was heard by Baroness Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, a retired senior judge and member of the House of Lords.

It’s likely an inquest – which, under British law, must be held when someone dies violently, unexpectedly, or of unknown causes – will begin in May, Butler-Sloss said.

One of the issues the hearing was attempting to resolve was whether the inquest would have a jury and, if so, what form it would take. Because Diana was a royal, British law states that an inquest jury should be made up of members of the royal household.

But Sir John Nutting, representing Queen Elizabeth II, said a jury made up exclusively of royal household or staff members – of which there are about 1,200, including 700 full-time employees – could lead to doubts about its trustworthiness.

Butler-Sloss agreed a royal jury would be “inappropriate.” She has not yet ruled out having a jury staffed by ordinary citizens, or whether to preside over the inquests alone.

A poll commissioned by the BBC, released in December, found that 31 percent of the sample believed the deaths were not an accident, while 43 percent believed they were. The GfK NOP poll of 1,000 adults had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.


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