Lawyer for Colten Boushie’s family responds to jury selection changes
The federal government’s legislation to end peremptory challenges do not go far enough, according to a lawyer involved in the trial of Gerald Stanley, which brought the issue to the forefront.
Chris Murphy represents Colten Boushie’s family who said they were frustrated to see defence lawyers turn away visibly Indigenous potential jurors.
Eliminating peremptory challenges “just seems to me not to go nearly far enough to protect the rights of the accused in a criminal trial,” Murphy said following Thursday’s announcement.
Peremptory challenges allow Crown and defence lawyers to turn away potential jurors during the selection process without giving any reason.
Jurors can be turned away on visible factors like ethnicity and sex.
“I don’t really believe that just getting rid of the peremptory challenges and replacing it with nothing helps victims of crimes or the families of victims,” Murphy said.
The Toronto-based defence lawyer was hoping and expecting to see Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould introduce legislation similar to American law, allowing lawyers to ask potential jurors questions to “get a pretty good feeling for what a potential juror is all about.”
In August 2016, Boushie was fatally shot when he and others from the Red Pheasant First Nation drove onto Stanley’s rural property near Biggar, Sask., about 90 kilometres west of Saskatoon.
Following Stanley’s acquittal in February, Boushie’s family traveled to Parliament Hill and asked federal ministers to overhaul the justice system.
“If they announce there’s a change, then that would give me hope for the future, for the future generation,” Debbie Baptiste, Boushie’s mother, told Global News.
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Peremptory challenges can be used to make a jury appear less representative of the community, according to Carissima Mathen, a law professor at the University of Ottawa.
“It can create an appearance that maybe justice has not been done and that’s very damaging to the justice system,” Mathen said.
In Saskatchewan, coroner’s inquests have more flexibility during jury selection. Recently, Murphy represented the family of Jordan Lafond, who died following a police chase.
Jurors were chosen from two pools: Indigenous and non-Indigenous.
“I’m not sure if that would be easily transferable into the criminal [trial] context,” Murphy said.
Lawyers were also permitted to ask potential jurors questions before they were named to the jury panel.
“When we walked out of that jury selection process for the inquest, I personally felt that it was a very fair process,” Murphy said.
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