Jurors at Ottawa murder trial must be vaccinated against COVID-19, judge rules

The murder trial of a man charged in a 2019 Ottawa killing will feature a jury made up exclusively of people fully vaccinated against COVID-19, a judge has ruled.

Unvaccinated jurors would 'irresponsibly introduce risk'

The September 2021 murder trial of Martin Frampton will only include jurors who say they've been vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the judge presiding over the trial (Danny Globerman/CBC)

The murder trial of a man charged in a 2019 Ottawa killing will feature a jury made up exclusively of people who say they've been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, a judge has ruled.

Martin Frampton, of no fixed address, is facing one count of first-degree murder after 31-year-old Kenneth Ammaklak was found dead on Donald Street two years ago.

In a pre-trial ruling published earlier this week, Justice Kevin Phillips said the threat posed by the fourth wave of COVID-19 and the highly contagious delta variant meant that allowing unvaccinated people on the jury would "irresponsibly introduce risk to the trial."

Phillips said he would ask all potential jurors if they'd been fully vaccinated, and anyone who revealed they hadn't would be disqualified.

"An unvaccinated juror is a potential conduit for the COVID-19 virus to make its way into the jury room. Obviously, such a result would derail the proceeding," said Phillips.

"Indeed, worrying about such an outcome would likely become a constant distraction."

'Low end of the privacy spectrum'

Testing unvaccinated jurors regularly while keeping the trial moving along would be "practically impossible," Phillips said. And while the Ottawa courthouse has a special room for jury trials during the pandemic — one outfitted with Plexiglas and hand sanitizer dispensers — Phillips said people still broke the rules during a trial he oversaw there in 2020.

Ontario's Juries Act, he noted, allows for jurors to be declared ineligible if they physically can't perform their duties and can't also be "reasonably accommodated."

As for the issue of privacy: Phillips said it was his opinion asking someone about their vaccination status was toward the "low end of the privacy spectrum."

"COVID-19 vaccination has been quite well received by the broader public, and those who have decided not to get onboard are sometimes portrayed as contrarian or even irrational," he said. 

"This is not a problem, however, for the simple reason that I will be asking only whether a candidate has been vaccinated — not why not."

Frampton's multi-week trial is slated to begin Sept. 7.