A judge in a Barrie, Ont., courthouse has ordered that lists of potential jurors be thrown out after it became known that a Crown prosecutor had asked for background checks on the jurors.
The controversy centres on a case involving a street racing trial in which a trucker was killed on Highway 400 two years ago. Last month, weeks before the trial was set to begin, the deputy Crown attorney in Simcoe Country sent a memo to six neighbouring police departments.
The police were asked to check the names on two jury lists to see if anyone had a criminal record.
Police are permitted to do that under the Juries Act. But in the memo, the Crown also said that "comments could be made concerning any disreputable persons we would not want as a juror."
A publication ban on the two jury lists, which contain handwritten notes and the names of some potential jurors, was lifted Friday.
One person is described as "suicidal". A note beside another name says: "Dad is a drinker."
Another note beside a potential juror says: "Neighbour shot his cat." Other names just have the word "OK" beside them
Jurors in dark
The potential jurors had no idea their personal information had been dug up, documented and shared.
Defence lawyer Mitchell Worsoff, who represents the man on trial, accused the Crown attorney's office and police in Barrie of improper conduct.
Worsoff said the search for additional information was "completely inappropriate and unlawful. Their conduct was completely illegal."
Worsoff said he was concerned the jury selection may have been tainted.
"The jury selection is crucial because if you don’t have 12 impartial jurors, as we all know, right away you start off not on a level playing field."
Potential jurors will now be picked from new lists.
Last week, the Ontario Attorney General's Office ordered all Crown attorneys to immediately stop background checks of potential jurors.