People not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 excused from jury pool in N.S. trial

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Justice John Bodurtha made the decision at a trial held over 6 days in October at the Digby Pines resort — shown here on Dec. 19, 2019. (Colleen Jones/CBC - image credit)
Justice John Bodurtha made the decision at a trial held over 6 days in October at the Digby Pines resort — shown here on Dec. 19, 2019. (Colleen Jones/CBC - image credit)

A Nova Scotia judge presiding over a recent trial excluded anyone from jury duty who was not fully vaccinated against COVID-19, saying a potential outbreak of the disease could impact the accused's rights.

In a decision released Monday, Justice John Bodurtha said he had the support of both Crown and defence in the case of Cory Malcolm Smith, who was charged with sexual interference and sexual assault. His trial was held in October.

"Both Crown and defence agreed that allowing unvaccinated jurors could potentially impact the accused's right to be tried within a reasonable time by increasing the probability of the trial being disrupted or delayed due to a COVID-19 outbreak among the jurors and other court participants," Bodurtha wrote.

The trial was held over six days at the Digby Pines resort because the local courthouse is not big enough to accommodate the hundreds of people who are usually summoned to make up a jury pool and comply with pandemic restrictions on social gathering.

Upon inspection, it was determined there were issues with the conference room that served as the jury deliberation room. The judge said there also did not appear to be modern ventilation within the room.

"The room was small with only one point of entry requiring jurors to pass by each other when accessing their seats and when entering and exiting the room," Bodurtha wrote.

On the first day of jury selection, the judge asked anyone who was not fully vaccinated to step forward. Once he was satisfied there were enough fully vaccinated people remaining to make up the jury, the unvaccinated potential jurors were dismissed.

Smith was convicted of both charges on Oct. 8. He is to be sentenced in April.

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