Politicians aren’t juries

Some criminal lawyers are taking issue with the Prime Minister’s response to the Colten Boushie verdict:

“Saying anything that amounts to commenting on the correctness of the verdict, to improve your public image or ensure an appropriate approval rating, should be criticized in Canada,” said Michael Lacy, a partner in the criminal law group Brauti Thorning Zibarras LLP in Toronto.

On Saturday, federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said in a tweet that Canada “can and must do better,” after a jury found Gerald Stanley not guilty of second-degree murder in the shooting death of Colten Boushie.Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also weighed in at a news conference in California, saying Canada has “come to this point as a country far too many times.”Edmonton-based criminal lawyer Tom Engel said when politicians, especially the justice minister, appear to criticize verdicts, the public may believe that future decisions by the courts are influenced by the remarks.
Lacy added that politicians “have no business at all” in commenting on the outcome of a trial. “It undermines the independence of the judicial branch,” he said in an email.

[…]

[Chris Murphy, a lawyer for the Boushie family] also took issue with the fact that Stanley, despite living in an area with a large indigenous population, was tried by an all-white jury. Stanley’s lawyer was able to use peremptory challenges to prevent any potential jurors who appeared indigenous from sitting in the final panel, Murphy said.

Engel said the case does raise questions about the diversity of a jury and how members are selected. He said politicians could use this an opportunity to look at how legislative changes can improve those processes, while steering clear of discussing the verdict.

Ironically, Trudeau’s remarks may have tainted a possible appeal by the Crown:

Members of the Liberal government also voiced their displeasure with the justice system, which Toronto-based criminal defence lawyer, Sean Robichaud, said could have serious ramifications.

“By commenting on a particular case, it may affect the ability for Crown to proceed with the case if an appeal is granted,” Robichaud said.

“By commenting on a particular case, it may affect the ability for Crown to proceed with the case if an appeal is granted,” Robichaud said.

[…]

Robichaud said any public comments from the prime minister or justice minister questioning the credibility of the judiciary pose a threat to Canada’s democratic system, especially a potential appeal process, as the courts should be equal to the legislature.

Trudeau hasn’t gone nearly as far as a certain other North American leader in attacking the judiciary, but it’s a road he shouldn’t even think about going down.

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