Toronto

Pay jurors more: Jennifer Pan lawyer, judge say

Both the lawyer defending Jennifer Pan and the judge who ruled in the 9-month-long trial want jurors to be paid more for their work.

Ontario has not increased juror compensation in 25 years

Jennifer Pan's lawyer sought a mistrial in her case, arguing the jury pool was not diverse enough because few could afford to serve as a juror for the duration of the 9-month trial. (Alex Tavshunsky/CBC)

Both the lawyer defending Jennifer Pan and the judge who ruled in the 9-month-long trial want jurors to be paid more for their work.

Defence lawyer Paul Cooper, who represented Pan, called for a mistrial in the case in which his client was found guilty of first-degree murder and attempted murder, claiming concerns about the high number of young and self-employed people who asked to be excused from jury duty citing financial hardship.

Justice Cary Boswell dismissed Cooper’s request, but wrote in his decision that "the current stipend has been entirely inadequate."

More than 2,100 jurors had to be summoned, the judge noted, to get the final 12 in the Pan case.

Cooper sought a higher wage for jurors at the beginning of the trial back in February, arguing it could help create a more diverse jury.

“What we wanted was a fair representation of the community,” Cooper told CBC News.

“Everyone should have the right to be able to sit on a jury we shouldn't be excluding people because they are having a financial hardship.”

In his application for a mistrial, Cooper calculated almost 30 per cent of potential jurors dropped out because they said they couldn't afford to serve.

Currently, jurors in Ontario are paid as follows:

  • Day 1-10: no financial compensation.

  • Day 11-49: $40 per day.

  • Day 50+: $100 per day. 

With minimum wage now at $11 per hour, most jurors would get paid more at an entry-level job than they would in court.

Toronto-based criminal lawyer Greg Lafontaine argues that juror pay should start at $100 per day, and eventually reach $250 per day in lengthy trials.

"It's appalling that it's gone on this long there have been all sorts of indications from the judiciary that this has to change it hasn't changed," he said.

Ontario’s Attorney General Madeleine Meilleur declined to comment on the issue, despite a growing number of judges and lawyers calling for an increase in juror compensation. 

A written statement from the attorney general's office said it continues to review the fees paid to jurors.

Ontario has not increased juror compensation in more than 25 years.

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