Judge urges jurors to reach verdicts in Lac-Megantic trial after they hit impasse

SHERBROOKE, Que. — A judge urged jurors at the Lac-Megantic trial to try once more to reach unanimous verdicts after they told him Tuesday they had come to an impasse on their sixth day of deliberations.

Quebec Superior Court Justice Gaetan Dumas told the 12 jurors that failing to reach verdicts for the three accused would not reflect badly on them, provided they “made an honest effort.”

But he nonetheless exhorted them to try again, and the eight men and four women will enter Day 7 of deliberations Wednesday.

“The law gives me the power to dissolve the jury if it appears that holding you longer would be useless,” Dumas told jurors. “This power can’t be used lightly or prematurely.

“Will you please try once again to reach a verdict? This is a time for each of you to reflect further on the evidence and to see how, listening to each other carefully and reasoning together, you can come to an agreement.”

The jurors are deliberating the fate of Tom Harding, Richard Labrie and Jean Demaitre. The three were charged with criminal negligence causing the 2013 tragedy that killed 47 people when a runaway train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded in the small town.

After Tuesday’s lunch break, Dumas convened the prosecution and the defence teams back into the courtroom and read a letter from the jury.

“We are at an impasse,” Dumas said, referring to the letter. “What happens if we can’t arrive at a unanimous decision?”

The day before, jurors sent Dumas their first letter, asking for a dictionary and for further clarification on judicial concepts such as “reasonable doubt” and a “reasonable person.”

The dictionary request was turned down.

All three accused can be found guilty of criminal negligence causing the death of 47 people, while jurors have the option of convicting Harding on one of two other charges: dangerous operation of railway equipment or dangerous operation of railway equipment causing death.

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