Lac-Megantic: jury selection process begins

SHERBROOKE, Que. — Lawyers began the difficult task Monday of finding 14 jurors who are bilingual, impartial and without any personal connection to the 2013 rail disaster that killed 47 people in Lac-Megantic, Que.

Between 800 and 1,200 prospective jurors will be called over the next few weeks for possible selection at the trial of three men who each face one charge of criminal negligence causing the death of 47 people.

Roughly half of those who appeared in court Monday were deemed to have a sufficient knowledge of both English and French.

The process will continue and those considered bilingual will return to court Sept. 29 for the official selection of the 14-member jury.

“I find things are going well with the bilingualism selection,” Superior Court Justice Gaetan Dumas said at the end of the first day of proceedings. “Sometimes we get fewer bilingual people than we did today.”

The three ex-railway employees who are on trial — train driver Thomas Harding, traffic controller Richard Labrie and manager of train operations Jean Demaitre — were present in the Sherbrooke courtroom.

They are accused of being responsible for what happened on July 6, 2013, when a runaway train carrying crude oil derailed in the Quebec community east of Montreal and exploded.

All three have pleaded not guilty.

Charles Shearson, one of Harding’s three defence lawyers, said bilingualism is important because his client is English-speaking and the trial will include complex and technical concepts related to the railway industry.

He added that finding people in Sherbrooke who are impartial and without ties to the victims is a challenge.

“Lac-Megantic is close to (Sherbrooke) so you may have people who are related to victims,” he said.

Shearson said the defence will argue their client’s actions were not criminal.

“Our contention is that there was a lack of security culture within this railway company and you can’t strictly judge the actions of an employee who was on the front line and not given the correct tools to apply a proper safety culture,” he said.

The Crown has signalled it will call 24 civilian and 11 police witnesses, and one expert witness in a trial that is expected to last until December.

Some people asked Monday to be exempted from serving on the jury because of personal connections with victims.

Two prospective jurors broke down in tears as they told Dumas of their ties to those who died in the explosion, which destroyed a large part of the town’s core.

Others cited school, work, loss of income and health concerns as reasons for not being able to sit as jurors.

The bankrupt former railway company Montreal Maine and Atlantic Railway has also pleaded not guilty to causing the deaths of 47 people and will face a separate trial at a later date.

Just Posted

Christmas season in Red Deer begins with Festival of Trees

The kickoff to the Christmas season in Red Deer is upon us.… Continue reading

Judge allows Mr. Big evidence in murder trial

Two men accused of triple-murder admitted their involvement to undercover police

Red Deer agency supporting for LGBTQ2S+ youth

New report on LGBTQ2S+ youth from the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate

Four people arrested after gas and dash

Four people were arrested after an alleged gas and dash in two… Continue reading

VIDEO: Replay Red Deer: Nov. 19

Watch news highlights from the week of Nov. 13

Red Deer Christmas Bureau to help 1,300 children this year

Demand is high, but Red Deer always provides

CP Holiday train to stop in Ponoka for another year

The popular train will feature entertainment from Colin James and Emma-Lee

Kittens rescued after allegedly being tossed from vehicle

Couple finds abandoned kittens new home through Facebook

VIDEO: ‘Party bus’ goes up in flames in Vancouver

Fire crews responded to the late night blaze

Chicken crosses B.C. road, stops traffic

Rooster makes early morning commuters wait in Maple Ridge

Red Deerian honours her brother who died in a motorcycle collision

Houaida Haddad is encouraging Red Deer residents to donate blood

Red Deer County firefighters to be recognized for Waterton help

RCMP brass will give formal recognition Monday

Ron James tries to lighten humanity’s load through humour

The comedian returns to Red Deer for shows Dec. 1 and 2

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month