New Brunswick

Python deaths trial discharges juror, adjourns until Monday

The trial of a New Brunswick man charged in the death of two young boys by a python sees one of its jurors dismissed, at the request of both the Crown and defence.

'We're going to soldier on,' judge says as final Crown witness rescheduled for Monday

Jean-Claude Savoie, formerly of Campbellton, N.B., is charged with two counts of criminal negligence causing death. (Serge Bouchard/Radio-Canada)

The trial of a New Brunswick man charged in the death of two young boys by a python saw one of its jurors dismissed on Friday, at the request of both the Crown and defence. 

The trial in Campbellton, N.B., was to hear from the Crown's final witness in the case against Jean-Claude Savoie on Friday, but the courtroom remained closed while lawyers and the judge met behind closed doors.

When public proceedings finally resumed at noon, Judge Fredrick Ferguson of the Court of Queen's Bench announced that a female juror had been removed.

Brothers Noah, 4, and Connor Barthe, 6, were killed as they slept. (Facebook/Canadian Press)

The reason for dismissal was not stated. The jury now consists of seven women and four men, who were adjourned at about noon until Monday. 

Ferguson said despite the delay, the trial is still on track.

"We're going to soldier on," he said.

Ferguson also said information from Friday morning's closed-door meeting will be sealed until the jury begins deliberations.

He indicated deliberations are likely to begin after he gives his instructions to the jury on Wednesday afternoon, after hearing closing arguments that morning. He advised jurors to bring an overnight bag in the event they are sequestered. 

Savoie, who now lives in Montreal, is on trial for two counts of criminal negligence causing death after an African rock python that he kept in his apartment escaped its enclosure and asphyxiated brothers Noah and Connor Barthe, aged four and six, respectively, as they slept in an adjoining room. He has pleaded not guilty. 

Crown prosecutor Pierre Rouselle had intended to call his final witness, Reptile behaviour expert Robert Johnston of Toronto, on Friday.

Johnston is now scheduled to testify on Monday, after which the defence will have the opportunity to call witnesses.

Agreed facts

Two statements of facts, agreed upon by the Crown and defence, were submitted to the court on Friday:

  • The python escaped through the ventilation system in its enclosure in Savoie's apartment and killed the boys by asphyxiation as they slept.
  • The Canadian Wildlife Service took possession of a juvenile African rock python in Saint John in 2002. Because federal policy at the time was not to destroy animals unless as a last resort, the federal government turned the python over to Savoie and his Reptile Ocean facility. Savoie was not paid by the government for taking care of the python.

A pathologist who conducted the autopsies on the boys said Thursday that they died of asphyxiation after the snake coiled itself around them and bit them repeatedly.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alan White is a Fredericton native who has been working as a journalist since 1981, mostly in New Brunswick. He joined CBC in 2003 and is now a senior producer. He can be reached at alan.white@cbc.ca

With files from Canadian Press

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