Juror with COVID-19 symptoms puts deliberations on pause in Winnipeg homicide trial
WINNIPEG -- The jury was expected to begin deliberating Wednesday in the second-degree murder trial of a Winnipeg man accused of killing a foster home manager.
Instead, they were sent home and told to self-isolate because one of the jurors is showing COVID-19 symptoms.
“The jury manager was contacted by one of the jurors,” said Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Vic Toews. “He may have certain symptoms that cause concern.”
Toews said the juror is being tested for COVID-19.
“Clearly, I’m not prepared to proceed with just the 11 (jurors).”
The judge told the 11 jurors to self-isolate for the day. They may be asked to return as early as Thursday.
Toews also said the court is seeking advice from Public Health.
“I don’t think there is anything for you to be concerned about,” he said.
Jurors have kept their distance throughout the trial and worn masks. The Bible is wrapped in plastic and sanitized between witnesses.
Kane Moar, 23, has pleaded not guilty to fatally stabbing Ricardo Hibi, 34, on December 17, 2018. Moar is accused of second-degree murder. The charges have not been proven in court.
GETTING THE JUSTICE SYSTEM MOVING AGAIN
The Moar case is one of the first homicide trials in Manitoba since the courts reopened and it highlights the challenges of getting the justice system moving again during the pandemic.
The Canadian Juries Commission said it expects more trials will be put on hold because of COVID-19.
“I think this is just the beginning,” said Mark Farrant, who runs the commission, which advocates for the rights of jurors.
Farrant, himself a former juror, recognized the courts are dealing with major backlogs, but said he wants to see more specifics about their pandemic protocol.
“What does that look like? Will there be a two week isolation period within deliberations? It’s a real concern and I don’t think we’ve heard enough from the provincial attorney generals to answer those questions,” said Farrant.
Chris Gamby, a spokesperson for the Criminal Defence Lawyers Association of Manitoba, said while the courts are doing their best to ensure physical distancing, reopening has presented difficulties.
“The court has had some pretty big challenges facilitating jury trials,” Gamby told CTV News Wednesday.
If proceedings are put on hold Gamby said there may be concerns about how well the jury will remember the evidence.
“It’s not horribly unusual for a trial to be delayed for a couple days. It could be concerning if that delay was extended for a period of weeks.”