Oland murder trial highlights ins and outs of jury duty

hoto credit: Courtroom jury box. Stock photo by Getty Images.

Imagine a cold Moosehead beer in your hand on a hot and humid September day. Now imagine a murder trial. It’s hard to think of a linkage between the two.

In 2011, Moosehead Breweries businessman Richard Oland was found dead in his office in Saint John, N.B. His son, Dennis Oland, has been charged with second-degree murder of his father. So far, he has pleaded not guilty and the jury selection for his trial just finished after taking more than two days.

Moosehead is Canada’s oldest independent brewery, founded by Susannah Oland in 1867. It’s still being operated by the Oland family, six generations later.

A Queen’s Bench court judge in Saint John has ruled for a publication ban on this case, which serves to reduce the media’s influence on selected jury members when the time comes to hear evidence and reach a verdict.

The province had 1,131 individuals on the jury list. In the end just 14 jurors were selected — eight men and six women. Two are alternates, in case someone gets sick or needs to be replaced.

In general, juries may sit on both criminal and civil trials. For a murder trial, which is a criminal proceeding, 12 jurors are required. In most provinces, civil trials require only six jurors.

All provinces and territories have a jury act and/or regulation. For instance, the Jury Act in New Brunswick, where Oland’s trial will be held, was passed in 1980.

The jury hears the evidence from both sides at trial and determines the facts of the case. The judge provides the jury with instructions on the law. Based on the facts and the judge’s instructions, the jury renders a decision of “guilty” or “not guilty.”

In New Brunswick, as in most other provinces, any Canadian citizen who is over the age of 19 may be selected as a juror. However, a number of individuals are ineligible to become jurors. These include: members of the House of Commons and other legislative assemblies; anyone working the administration of justice (e.g. peace officers); lawyers; qualified medical practitioners; and firefighters.

In addition to those who are ineligible to serve as jurors, some individuals may be exempted from jury duty. Examples include individuals over the age of 70, those who have served on a jury in the five preceding years, and a person for whom service of 10 days or more would cause irreparable financial loss.

In most provinces, jury members are selected from the most recent official list of electors under the province’s elections legislation or from the list of all registered owners of motor vehicles under the motor vehicle legislation of the province.

If you are selected for jury duty and receive a summons (court document) to come to court, you have a civic duty to attend. If you don’t show up, you may be held in contempt of court and fined. In New Brunswick, the fine can be as much as $1,000.

Jurors are paid for their attendance. If you attend for less than four hours a day you are paid $20; above that jurors make $40 per day. If the trial lasts 10 days or longer, those amounts are doubled.

Oland’s second-degree murder trial is set to start in mid-September and is scheduled to last 65 days.

The selected jurors will be busy for a while and they likely won’t be drinking any Moosehead while on the job.

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