Prospec­tive ju­ror: Abo­rig­i­nals made up large per­cent­age of group

Winnipeg Sun - - NEWS - CANDICE MAL­COLM @Candice­mal­colm

Al­most half of the prospec­tive ju­rors in the Colten Boushie case were Abo­rig­i­nal per­sons, ac­cord­ing to one mem­ber of the jury pool.

How­ever the rea­son there were no Abo­rig­i­nal Cana­di­ans on the jury in this con­tro­ver­sial case is be­cause so many de­lib­er­ately opted out of the process. Other First Na­tions prospec­tive ju­rors, mean­while, were openly and out­wardly bi­ased dur­ing the se­lec­tion process, ac­cord­ing to one prospec­tive ju­ror who spoke to the Sun.

The wit­ness, who the Sun is choos­ing not to iden­tify, was present for jury se­lec­tion in the Boushie case. The per­son de­scribed the scene as a “large gym­na­sium turned into a court­room” in Bat­tle­ford, Sask.

Me­dia re­ports state that 700 peo­ple re­ceived jury duty no­tice for the case, and of that, only about 200 showed up that Mon­day morn­ing.

“I sat at the back and got a better idea of who was all there,” said the prospec­tive ju­ror. “On one side of the room, it was pri­mar­ily Cau­casian peo­ple, with a few Filipinos, a cou­ple black peo­ple, and pep­pered in was a hand­ful of First Na­tions peo­ple,” the per­son re­calls.

“On the other side of the room, it was maybe three­quar­ters First Na­tions peo­ple,” the per­son said, es­ti­mat­ing that ap­prox­i­mately 85-100 of the ini­tial 200 prospec­tive ju­rors were abo­rig­i­nal.

The per­son ex­plained the process that day, as a judge asked if any­one in the room wanted to be ex­cused or dis­qual­i­fied from sit­ting on a jury in this case. In­di­vid­u­als with a con­flict

— a re­la­tion­ship with ei­ther fam­ily or a sched­ul­ing con­flict — could re­quest to be re­cused from be­ing se­lected for the trial.

Ac­cord­ing to the prospec­tive ju­ror, who did not go on to serve on the jury, a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple in the room asked to be dis­qual­i­fied, ei­ther be­cause they had a re­la­tion­ship with Colten Boushie’s fam­ily or be­cause of other cir­cum­stances that made them un­avail­able.

The per­son es­ti­mates that more than half of the Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple were granted per­mis­sion by the judge to be ex­empt from the trial and free to go home.

But, as the prospec­tive ju­ror de­scribes, some of the re­main­ing 45 or so were vo­cal in ex­press­ing their bias and sig­nalling to every­one in the room they were un­fit to serve in the jury.

“You could au­di­bly hear some of them talk­ing amongst them­selves, dis­cussing how they were go­ing to hang Stan­ley, or they were go­ing to make sure he gets hung, or that if they don’t get the re­sults they want, that they were go­ing to han­dle it them­selves,” the per­son said of the Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple who re­mained. This ac­count comes from one in­di­vid­ual who spoke with the Sun, and has not yet been cor­rob­o­rated by other wit­nesses.

“The thing that was the most shock­ing to me was the fact that they were so au­di­ble from where I was sit­ting (across the room) and there were po­lice scat­tered through­out the room. No one stopped them.”

The jury’s ac­quit­tal elicited a va­ri­ety of strong re­ac­tions from Cana­di­ans on­line. Over the week­end, lawyers and other ex­perts crit­i­cized Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau and Jus­tice Min­is­ter Jody Wil­son­ray­bould for is­su­ing so­cial me­dia posts that ap­peared to crit­i­cize the jury’s de­ci­sion.

On Mon­day, Wil­son­ray­bould said changes to jury se­lec­tion were com­ing soon. “We are look­ing at peremp­tory chal­lenges,” she said, also not­ing that those changes would aim to “sub­stan­tially im­prove the crim­i­nal sys­tem and the jury se­lec­tion process.”

But ac­cord­ing to the prospec­tive ju­ror, the se­lec­tion process was ran­dom and seemed fair. Of the re­main­ing po­ten­tial ju­rors, “every­one was as­signed a num­ber and they lit­er­ally pulled num­bers from a bucket. It was to­tally ran­dom,” the per­son said, whose own num­ber was not se­lected.

Some me­dia out­lets have re­ported that ev­ery prospec­tive ju­ror who ap­peared to be Abo­rig­i­nal was chal­lenged and es­sen­tially ve­toed by the de­fence coun­sel.

The prospec­tive ju­ror also dis­missed that idea, sug­gest­ing the de­fence coun­sel chal­lenged in­di­vid­u­als who had made openly bi­ased com­ments. Be­sides, the per­son added, “they were chal­leng­ing white peo­ple too.”

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