Nfld. & Labrador

Doug Snelgrove trial back on track after sheriffs snag passersby to restock jury

Justice Garrett Handrigan granted last-minute exemptions for some of the jury members that had been selected.

Sheriffs hit up malls, stores to find additional jurors

RNC Const. Doug Snelgrove leaves court on Monday after jury selection. Snelgrove's sexual assault trial will get underway with evidence being called on Wednesday. (Malone Mullin/CBC)

After a day's delay and a public search for new jurors, testimony in the retrial of Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Const. Doug Snelgrove is set to begin again on Thursday morning.

Wednesday was supposed to be the start of Snelgrove's sexual assault trial, but the morning's proceedings had to be halted just two hours after getting underway to find more jurors. 

While a jury had been selected over Monday and Tuesday, Justice Garrett Handrigan granted last-minute exemptions for some of those members on Wednesday morning.

It's not clear why those jurors were excused.

Sheriffs were sent out into St. John's to hand out jury duty summons for people to report to the court at 2 p.m. They were spotted at public places like Costco and the Village Mall, and were successful in rounding up about 30 people. 

The judge apologized to the potential jurors, most of whom were out and about and wouldn't have expected being ordered to report to court Tuesday afternoon. 

Handrigan added that he doesn't take exercising the right lightly, but had no other options. 

As of mid-afternoon, the jury had been filled out again.

A criminal trial cannot begin with less than 12 members on the jury panel. It may conclude with no less than 10.

Exemptions also granted earlier this week

Snelgrove's retrial is the first time a jury will hear arguments since COVID-19 restrictions closed courts in March.

In an unprecedented move, the judge had granted multiple jury duty exemptions, over the course of Monday and Tuesday, based on fears of COVID-19 transmission from Ontario Provincial Police officers present in the courtroom this week.

Handrigan addressed more than 100 potential jurors Tuesday morning, notifying them OPP officers had been in the building to observe the trial and had not been required to self-isolate on arrival.

He invited exemption requests from those concerned about possible coronavirus exposure. Later on Tuesday, Handrigan barred the officers from being in the courtroom, and discussed other ways they might follow the trial.

"I don't want a COVID outbreak starting [at] this trial," he said. "However we can accommodate them otherwise, we will. But not here in this building."

Health Minister John Haggie said Tuesday the officers are considered essential workers, and are permitted to go directly from their hotel or residence to the workplace. A 14-day isolation period would be waived, he said.

"If someone is deemed essential, then the criteria around the exemption are very clear," he told reporters. "They are expected to isolate when not either on their way to work or at work, and when they are at work they're expected to follow COVID-19 precautions."

The former School for the Deaf has been transformed into a makeshift courtroom for the trial. (Malone Mullin/CBC)

That includes wearing masks and following physical distancing guidelines, he said.

"My understanding is that they have done that."

It's not clear whether the officers were tested for coronavirus upon arrival in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Second trial for Snelgrove

The jury will decide the fate of Snelgrove, who is being tried for the second time for the same sexual assault charge.

The incident under scrutiny occurred in December 2014. The Ontario Provincial Police were called to investigate, and arrested and charged Snelgrove in 2015.

He stood trial for the first time in 2017. An appeals court overturned that verdict a year later.

The Supreme Court trial is being held at the former School for the Deaf in St. John's.

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About the Author

Malone Mullin

Reporter/Writer

Malone Mullin reports for all platforms in St. John's. She previously worked on the web desk at CBC Toronto and CBC Vancouver.

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