National Post (Latest Edition)

Judge rules prospectiv­e jurors be vaccinated

- KEITH FRASER

VANCOUVER • Citing concerns about rising numbers of people being infected with COVID-19 in B.C., a judge ordered that prospectiv­e jurors at a Vancouver murder trial be fully vaccinated in order to sit on the jury.

The decision by B.C. Supreme Court Justice James Williams runs counter to a ruling handed down in August by another B.C. judge but is in line with another recent ruling by a judge in Ontario.

In his ruling, posted at the court’s website Monday, Williams said the trial of Alvaro Julio Roche-garcia, who has pleaded not guilty to the first-degree murder of Zenen Cepeda Silva, 69, was coming at a time when B.C. was coping with a significan­t COVID pandemic.

“I am very concerned that the jury trial upon which we are about to embark should be conducted in a way that maximizes the safety of all participan­ts, most certainly including those members of the community whom we require to serve as jurors,” said the judge.

Williams’ ruling was read aloud on Sept. 29, three days before the jury selection was conducted. The murder trial began Monday in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver.

Judges in B.C. are tasked with making decisions on how best to conduct the proceeding­s before them, including matters regarding jury selection.

In August, Justice Geoffrey Gomery declined to order that prospectiv­e jurors be vaccinated after finding that questionin­g prospectiv­e jurors encroached on a private and personal sphere.

But Williams, who said he had read that ruling as well as other rulings on the issue, said the circumstan­ces at this time are not the same as when those decisions were made.

“It is my considered opinion that the measure I intend to invoke here is necessary for the proper conduct of this trial.”

The jurors who appeared for the trial of Roche-garcia on Monday were wearing masks and were seated in a jury box with Plexiglas barriers that separated them from other jurors.

In her opening, Crown counsel Emily Adams said the victim was sitting on the front porch of his home at 6738 Fraser St. late on the evening of Jan. 26, 2019, when he and his wife were approached by a man who fired one shot at the victim, hitting him in the pelvis area and severing an artery.

The victim’s wife screamed for help, causing her granddaugh­ter to come out of the house. Police were called and despite efforts to revive him, the victim died later in hospital.

Adams told the jury surveillan­ce video of a vehicle parked behind a nearby restaurant will link the accused to the scene and a spent bullet recovered from the accused’s home was matched to a bullet recovered from a door frame at the crime scene that had been used in the fatal shooting.

The trial continues.

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