Eaton Centre shooting conviction overturned
A man who was found guilty of second-degree murder in a daytime shooting at Toronto’s landmark Eaton Centre mall was granted a new trial Friday after a judge found the jury that convicted him was improperly selected.
The Court of Appeal for Ontario overturned Christopher Husbands’ convictions, saying the trial judge made an irreparable mistake by overruling a defence request regarding the method of jury selection.
As a result, the three-member appeal panel said, the jury was improperly constituted and the verdict cannot stand.
“In accordance with the current state of the law ... what occurred here cannot be salvaged,” Justice David Watt wrote on behalf of the panel.
The June 2012 shooting at the Eaton Centre’s crowded food court sparked mayhem in the mall and sent hordes of panicked shoppers running for the exits.
Husbands’ appeal focused largely on the manner in which jurors were chosen.
As part of the selection process, prospective jurors may be questioned as to whether they believe they can remain impartial. Two people from the jury pool take on the role of “triers,” meaning they weigh the answer and determine whether there is sign of bias.
Lawyers for both the Crown and the defence then decide whether to allow the person on the jury.
Each newly appointed juror replaces one of the two triers so that the responsibility is shared, a process called “rotating triers.”
At the request of the accused, the court can appoint two people who will assess all the prospective juror responses. These are called “static triers” and do not get to serve on the jury.
Watt said Husbands’ lawyers made it clear they wanted rotating triers but the judge, Superior Court Justice Eugene Ewaschuk, imposed static triers.
At least one other case presided over by Ewaschuk has seen its verdict overturned on appeal over the same issue.