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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Car fire
UPDATE: No injuries, cause of vehicle fire on Hardy Bay Road unknown at this time

Port Hardy Fire Rescue arrived on scene soon after and extinguished the fire.

The entrance to the Port Hardy aquatic centre. (Tyson Whitney - North Island Gazette)
Port Hardy to ‘revitalize’ old aquatic centre for 8.5 million

‘If everything goes as planned, there will be no tax increase to cover our portion of the costs’

North Island Votes. Campbell River Mirror graphic
Babchuk declared winner in North Island

Nearly three-quarters of votes counted and mail-in ballots still to come

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

FILE – Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides the latest update on the COVID-19 pandemic in the province during a press conference in the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, October 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. shatters COVID-19 records with 817 weekend cases; masks now expected indoors

Three people have died over the past three reporting periods

Commissioner Austin Cullen listens to introductions before opening statements at the Cullen Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in British Columbia, in Vancouver, on February 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. money laundering inquiry hears of $800,000 and more in bags, luggage, backpacks

The lottery corporation has said it consistently reported suspicious transactions to Fintrac

Some of the characters in the League of Legends video game. (Photo: na.leagueoflegends.com)
E-sports trial at B.C. high schools to start with ‘League of Legends’ team game

For fall launch, Vancouver’s GameSeta company partners with BC School Sports

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

RCMP have released more details regarding what led up to an arrest caught on video in Williams Lake Sunday, Oct. 26. (Facebook video screenshot)
Review launched after ‘high-risk, multi-jurisdictional’ chase, arrest in Williams Lake

RCMP launching a full review and code of conduct investigation

Freighter drags anchor towards Boulder Point Oct. 22. It came within 730 metres of the shore, according to maps from the Port of Nanaimo. (Photo submitted)
MacGregor introduces bill to address freighter anchorages along the South Coast

Concerns about the environment, noise, pollution and safety abundant

(Pxfuel)
B.C. limits events in private homes to household, plus ‘safe six’ amid COVID-19 surge

Henry issued a public health order limiting private gatherings to one household, plus a group of ‘safe six’ only

Most Read