Monday smiles – Mustering jurors in Canada

cowboyThe Superior Court of Justice ran short of prospective jurors for a criminal trial last Monday, so the judge ordered the sheriff to round up more people at the shopping mall.

Of course… why didn’t anyone else think of that? 🙂

Normally jurors are summoned to court by letter, asked some questions by Crown and defence during a vetting process and at least 12 are selected. Although 125 jurors were summoned, a jury could not be constituted in this case.

So Justice Leonard Ricchetti made an order under a rarely used section of the Criminal Code to find more jurors forthwith.

policevanThe court supervisor and sheriff’s delegate put on his sheriff’s uniform, got a van and brought along two city police officers to start adding shoppers to the pool of prospective jurors.

He described how he went about gathering 12 more people, loading them on the bus and delivering them to the Owen Sound courthouse. “I approach people in the mall, explain to them who I am, explain to them that I’m approaching persons and the reason and then providing they answer some questions, like are you 18?, are you a Canadian citizen? – and I asked each individual person is there any reason they couldn’t sit on a jury – and some did.”

A man from Tobermory who was going to have knee surgery next week was excused. Only one person left quickly after being approached (the sheriff declined to discuss that ;-)). The rest were served with a summons.

kidnapWe give them the opportunity to speak to family, friends, stuff like that. And then we load them on the bus and we bring them to the courthouse.”

By the time the bus arrived at the courthouse, a mistrial had been declared. The prospective jurors were driven back to the mall, or put in cabs to take them where they had to go. They also were paid $100, a discretionary payment ordered by Justice Ricchetti.

The sheriff, Stephen Olschewski, said the judge relied on a “rarely, rarely, rarely used section” of the Criminal Code to round up more jurors “by word of mouth, if necessary”.

“People shouldn’t see the sheriff come into the mall and start to panic,” Olschewski said with amusement. “It’s rare. It’s like 40-something years ago since we did something like this.”

He found people were agreeable when the plight faced by the court Monday was explained to them. “I am extremely proud of the people of Grey County. They were good humoured. They understood the process, it was explained to them, and they were more than willing to participate.

The trial was adjourned to 2 December, when another jury should be selected.

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Credits: Mary Lynn :-), and the Owen Sound Sun Times.

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