OWEN SOUND, ONT. – When an Owen Sound court ran short of prospective jurors for an upcoming criminal trial, the judge ordered the sheriff to round up more people at the mall.
Normally jurors are summoned by letter to court, where they asked questions by Crown and defence during a vetting process. At least 12 are selected. While 125 jurors were summoned for Monday’s trial, the jury could not be filled.
So Justice Leonard Ricchetti made an order under a rarely used section of the Criminal Code to find more jurors immediately.
Court supervisor and sheriff’s delegate Stephen Olschewski put on his sheriff’s uniform, obtained a van and brought along two city police officers to start adding shoppers to the pool of prospective jurors.
Olschewski described Tuesday how he went about gathering 12 more people, loading them on the bus and delivering them to the Owen Sound courthouse.
“I approach people in the mall, explain to them who I am, explain to them that I’m approaching persons and the reason and then, providing they answer some questions like, ‘Are you 18? Are you a Canadian citizen?’ and I asked each individual person is there any reason they couldn’t sit on a jury.”
He excused a man from Tobermory, Ont., who was going to have knee surgery next week, Olschewski said.
Only one person left quickly after being approached, Olschewski said, though he declined to discuss that. The rest were served with a summons.
“We give them the opportunity to speak to family, friends, stuff like that. And then we load them on the bus and we bring them to the courthouse.”
Olschewski said that by the time the bus arrived at the courthouse, a mistrial had been declared.
The prospective jurors were driven back to the mall, or put in cabs to take them where they had to go. They also were paid $100, a discretionary payment ordered by Justice Ricchetti.
Olschewski said the judge relied on a “rarely, rarely, rarely used section” of the Criminal Code to round up more jurors “by word of mouth, if necessary.”
“People shouldn’t see the sheriff come into the mall and start to panic,” Olschewski said. “It’s rare. It’s like 40-something years ago since we did something like this.”
The trial was adjourned to Dec. 2, when another jury is slated to be selected.