Nova Scotia

Cape Breton's first pandemic-era jury selection underway

Jury selection usually takes place at the courthouse, but due to a lack of space for physical distancing, the selection process is being held at the Centre 200 arena in Sydney.

About 500 residents summoned to arena to avoid courthouse congestion

The Centre 200 arena has the capacity to hold the hundreds of people who were summoned for jury duty to maintain physical distancing. (Brent Kelloway/CBC)

Jury selection is underway in Cape Breton for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

Selection for a jury trial in Sydney would usually take place at the courthouse, but due to a lack of space, the south concourse of the Centre 200 arena is hosting the selection process. That area of the arena can seat up to 650 people.

Around 500 residents of Cape Breton Regional Municipality received jury notices. 

More than 100 chairs are lined throughout the concourse, each one physically distant from each other and the aisles.

The judge sits at the front on a small stage with the defence and crown sitting at tables in front of the stage.

Hand sanitizer is available throughout the facility. (Brent Kelloway/CBC)

Potential jurors will be brought in through the front doors of the arena and will follow the directions through hallways to help keep people spaced out as they are being signed in. 

Hand sanitizer is available at a few different locations throughout the halls before they get to the concourse. 

Trial to be held in court

Jurors are being selected for an upcoming trial for a Cape Breton man who is charged with sexual assault and sexual interference.

The trial is set to take place in court, but with modifications. Jennifer Stairs, spokesperson for the Nova Scotia Judiciary, said the jury will not be in the jury box and will instead be spaced out on the floor of the courtroom.

"An adjacent courtroom has been repurposed to use as a jury deliberation room, again to maintain physical distancing," Stairs said in an email. "The counsel tables in the main courtroom have been moved to the area where the jury box would normally be."

12 jurors are needed for the upcoming trial.