Process vastly different than in pre-pandemic times
For the first time since the pandemic outbreak 19 months ago, a jury is slated to hear a criminal case at the Sault Ste. Marie courthouse.
A jury of six women and six men was selected Monday for the trial of a local man charged with a sexual offence __ and in the days of COVID-19 the process was vastly different than in pre-pandemic times.
Superior Court Justice Edward Gareau presided over the selection of the jurors in the historic building’s largest courtroom.
Normally, the second-floor courtroom would be crowded with scores of local citizens, sitting shoulder-to-shoulder in the rows of pew-like bench seating.
But with the changes and restrictions implemented to keep the wheels of justice turning in these tumultuous times only a handful of masked prospective jurors were present Monday morning.
A total of 100 people were staggered to appear over a two-day period __ 25 each at morning and afternoon sessions __ due to phyiscal distancing requirements.
Half of the first group was in the main courtroom and the remainder in a nearby courtroom, which was connected to the proceedings via videoconferencing.
All 12 jurors were selected during the first session Monday and two alternates were to be chosen from the second group in the afternoon.
The trial is now expected to begin Tuesday morning and will continue into next week.
By order of the province’s chief justice of the Superior Court of Justice, jury panelists are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to participate in this legal process, Marc Boissonneault, manager of court operations said in an interview.
The order is in place until the end of the year.
Usually, the jurors sit together in a jury box, close to the witnesses, lawyers and the judge in the front of the courtroom.
The Sault’s landmark courthouse has two jury boxes in its large courtroom, which is known for its wood panelling, Corinthian plasters.and large circular hanging light fixture.
Half of the jurors at this trial will be seated in each box to allow for physical distancing.
Plexiglass surrounds the boxes, and also separates each juror from one another.
Early in the pandemic, Plexiglass was installed in areas occupied by judges, court staff, lawyers and witnesses in courtrooms.
Those not speaking are required to wear masks