Nfld. & Labrador

Al Potter's murder trial delayed, as sheriffs find new potential jurors downtown

Dale Porter was discovered badly injured outside his North River, Conception Bay North, home on June 29, 2014.

Jury of 9 men, 7 women chosen Monday afternoon at Supreme Court

Al Potter, 55, sits at a table beside the prisoner's box in Courtroom No. 2 at Supreme Court in St. John's on Tuesday. (Ariana Kelland/CBC)

It's not something anyone would predict happening on their lunch break — being stopped in downtown St. John's by a uniformed sheriffs officer and told to stop your errands: you've been summoned for jury duty.

And not just any jury duty — for the first-degree murder trial of Al Potter, one which had a full jury picked until Tuesday morning. 

Potter, 55, is on trial for the stabbing death of Dale Porter, 39, who was discovered outside his North River, Conception Bay North, home on June 29, 2014.

Nine men and seven women were chosen after a day-long selection process at Supreme Court Monday. Two of those people are alternates and will be used only if someone in the jury pool has to be dismissed. 

But by Tuesday morning, when evidence was expected to be called, two jurors and one alternate were dismissed, leaving a hole in the jury pool.

Sheldon Steeves and Erin Matthews, not pictured, are the Crown prosecutors for Potter's first-degree murder trial. (Ariana Kelland/CBC)

Sheriffs take to downtown St. John's

Some people were plucked from Atlantic Place on Water Street, others were reportedly inside the gym on the building's second floor.

One man said he was approached while he was filling his water bottle at work at the Sir Humphrey Gilbert Building and told, by a sheriff's officer, to go down the road to Supreme Court. 

Twelve people, many of whom looked puzzled, were led into the courtroom after the lunch break to begin the jury selection process. 

"I'm sorry for the inconvenience here today," Justice Garrett Handrigan told one of the exempted jurors.

"It wasn't that bad," he replied, soliciting some chuckles from the courtroom.

The man who had been filling his water bottle was chosen as a juror, and appeared confused and somewhat shocked by being selected. Justice Garrett Handrigan asked him a series of questions about his job and whether he would be paid by his employer during the lengthy trial. In the end, he was granted an exemption on the grounds of financial hardship.

Defence lawyer Randy Piercey speaks with co-counsel Jon Noonan before the second round of jury selection Tuesday afternoon. (Ariana Kelland/CBC)

The next man whose jury number was pulled from a box similar to one used in a lottery, was chosen as the final juror. Two other people, however, were asked to return to court Wednesday, in case more jurors are dismissed. 

Potter, who sat at a table next to the prisoner's box, put on reading glasses and followed along with the selection process using documents in front of him.  

Not the 1st time

A similar scenario played out in 2014, when the courts were left scrambling to find two new jurors for the high-profile murder trial of Philip Pynn, who was eventually found guilty of manslaughter, and Lyndon Butler, who was acquitted. 

In that case, sheriff's officers hit the streets of downtown St. John's in search of a new pool of prospective jurors, who both the Crown and defence would determine to be suitable or not for the case. 

North River resident Dale Porter, who's pictured here working on a fishing boat, was killed on his property during the early morning hours of June 29, 2014. (Submitted photo)

Meanwhile, Justice Handrigan told jurors to expect the trial to last five weeks, but unforeseen circumstances could factor into when it will conclude.

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About the Author

Ariana Kelland is a reporter with the CBC Newfoundland and Labrador bureau in St. John's.