Nfld. & Labrador

Mistrial declared in RNC officer Doug Snelgrove sex assault case

A mistrial has been declared in the case of Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officer Doug Snelgrove, who was accused of sexual assault, after the judge made an error in how he chose which jurors were dismissed before the jury was sequestered on Thursday.

Crown intends to seek third trial

Doug Snelgrove testified at his retrial earlier this week. (Malone Mullin/CBC)

A mistrial has been declared in the case of Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officer Doug Snelgrove, who was accused of sexual assault, with the stage now set for a third trial. 

The judge made an error in how he chose which jurors were dismissed before 12 people were sequestered on Thursday. 

Specifically, Justice Garrett Handrigan told the two additional jurors — Nos. 13 and 14 — they were free to go. But according to Crown attorney Lloyd Strickland, since the jurors had heard the evidence, they should have been chosen through a lottery system, with their numbers plucked from a drum.

Strickland told CBC News that Handrigan alerted counsel to his mistake Thursday afternoon, after sequestering the jury.

"We had a chance to review the matter. I certainly did overnight," Strickland said. 

On Friday morning, Strickland argued the matter was a technicality, and wouldn't affect the fairness of proceedings.

"I expect many people will feel that way," he said. "I took the position that we could remedy the situation."

Strickland said he suggested the judge could call all 14 jurors back to the building and select the final 12 through the lottery process, allowing that jury to continue deliberations.

"The judge did not feel he could do that, that it was not an error he could fix," Strickland said.

The defence argued for a mistrial, which Handrigan declared Friday morning.

'Unfortunate, but fatal'

Defence lawyers Randy Piercey and Jon Noonan issued a statement Friday afternoon, in an effort to clarify their position.

They resisted the opinion that Snelgrove's defence had sought a technicality.

"There was no way to avoid a mistrial," the statement said.

"The law did not support the Crown attorney's proposal. We didn't ask for a mistrial so much as we acknowledged to the court that the error meant the jury was improperly constituted and a mistrial was the only available remedy."

The error was "unfortunate but it was fatal," Piercey and Noonan said, adding that defence was "satisfied with the case we presented and the jury that was selected."

Crown seeking new trial

The Crown intends to ask for a new trial at Snelgrove's arraignment on Oct. 5. 

However, Strickland said that could change. 

"I want the trial scheduled as soon as possible, but in complete fairness to the complainant — who's testified twice — she's going to have to do some thinking and searching within herself, quite naturally and reasonably, and decide if she can bear another trial as well," he said.

"Certainly that will be part of my consideration."

Snelgrove was arrested in 2015 and found not guilty at a trial in 2017. A year later, that verdict was dismissed.

The jury had been in the process of deciding Snelgrove's verdict for the second time when the judge declared the mistrial.

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