An entrance to the Calgary Courts Centre. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh)

Jurors as conscripts: Four things to know if you’re called upon

List stems from jury convicting man in the rape, beating death of a Calgary mother

Jurors convicted Curtis Healy of first-degree murder this fall after hearing a brutal account of how he raped and beat Dawns Baptiste, a Calgary mother of four, before killing her with a rock to her head.

Healy is appealing, in part, because the judge didn’t declare a mistrial after it was revealed some jurors had had drinks in their hotel’s restaurant even though they were already sequestered. Hockey highlights were on TV, other people were present and a server took their orders.

Here are four things to know if you’re chosen to serve on a jury:

Outside contact is strictly limited while deliberating

While evidence is being presented, jurors are free to go about their lives once each day is done. They are told to disregard anything they may see or hear about the case outside court. But once they’re deliberating, they are cut off from the general public. If the day ends without a verdict, they are put up in a hotel with no access to internet, phones or television.

Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Charlene Anderson called the restaurant visit inappropriate, but denied Healy’s mistrial application. There was no evidence the jurors had said, seen or heard anything about the case.

READ MORE: ‘I’ll never forgive you:’ Victim impact statements at hearing for Calgary killer

University of Toronto law professor Kent Roach says a 24-hour news cycle and social media complicate things.

“We’re asking a lot of our jurors, both during the trial and of course while they’re sequestered, to really blind themselves to this information age that we live in.”

Deliberations are secret

It’s a criminal offence — with a couple of exceptions — for jurors to ever disclose what was said during deliberations. They can never explain why they came to the decision they did, which makes it impossible for academics like Roach to interview them for research.

Toronto lawyer Allan Rouben says he appreciates the rationale behind the ban, but wants more leeway.

“Courts are worried that it will have a chilling effect on the fulsome debate that should occur within a jury room.”

Rouben says there are ways to handle that such as requiring jurors to remain anonymous and making clear they’re under no obligation to speak out.

He says allowing jurors to speak out would be especially beneficial in cases where they rendered a controversial verdict such as the acquittal of a Saskatchewan farmer in the fatal shooting death of an Indigenous man.

“The benefits of jury communication outweigh the costs.”

There are mental health considerations

Mark Farrant developed post-traumatic stress disorder after serving as jury foreman in a gruesome 2014 murder trial. He couldn’t sleep and withdrew from loved ones.

“I wasn’t able to partition the court experience and those images from my day-to-day life.”

The Toronto man says he was unable to get mental-health support from the courts after his jury duty. When he sought out a counsellor himself, he had trouble finding someone to take him on because of the secrecy rule.

A private member’s bill that has passed first reading in the House of Commons would amend the Criminal Code to allow jurors to speak freely to a health-care professional.

Some provinces offer support to jurors, but a Commons committee in May recommended a national approach. It also recommended jurors be given an information packet on how to cope with stress and go through debriefing sessions afterwards.

“We don’t conscript Canadians for the military anymore,” Farrant says. ”We do really conscript you for jury duty and it’s an enormous public service and integral to our justice system.”

Compensation varies

The Commons committee encouraged provinces and territories to give jurors a daily allowance of at least $120.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, workers must get their usual wages during jury duty. Everywhere else, it’s up to employers.

The current daily stipend varies wildly across the country. It’s $50 in Alberta. In Ontario, a $40-a-day allowance only kicks in on the 11th day. Quebecers get $103 a day until Day 57, when it rises to $160. There is also reimbursement in Quebec for mileage, parking and meals and, on a judge’s order, child care and counselling can be covered.

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Sicamous Eagles lose to league-leading Kimberley Dynamiters

The Eagles will be right back at it with a Sunday afternoon game against Chase.

People who are homeless in Salmon Arm provide consultants with key information

Urban Matters consultants gather information from ‘experts’ as they work on housing strategy

Word on the street: What is your strategy for not spending too much on Christmas gifts this year?

The Observer asked: What is your strategy for not spending too much on Christmas gifts this year?

Map points to mysterious ‘Waterdome’ in the middle of Salmon Arm Bay

City would like to have map marker removed, pilot recalls its significance

VIDEO: SNL skewers Trudeau’s mockery of Trump in high school cafeteria sketch

The three world leaders won’t let Trump sit at the cool kids’ table

B.C. universities post $340 million worth of surpluses thanks to international student tuition

Students call for spending as international enrolment produces huge surpluses at many universities

Conservatives urge Morneau to deliver ‘urgent’ fall economic update

Morneau says the first thing the Liberals plan to do is bring in their promised tax cut for the middle class

INFOGRAPHIC: How much money did your local university or college make last year?

B.C. university and colleges posted a combined $340 million surplus in 2018/19

B.C. creates $8.5M organization to improve safety for health care workers

Group will bring together unions, province, health care organizations

Kovrig clings to humour as ‘two Michaels’ near one year in Chinese prison

Their detention is widely viewed as retaliation for Canada’s arrest of Chinese high-tech scion Meng Wanzhou

Slippery sections reported on Okanagan and Shuswap highways

Some sections of the Trans-Canada highway have black ice on them.

B.C. VIEWS: An engine that hums right along

First Nations are leading a new surge of investment in B.C.

Most Read