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Murder trial jurors must be vaccinated to prevent COVID-related mistrial: B.C. judge

Judge says it would be a ‘travesty’ if COVID caused the trial to stop
Empty Moderna vaccine vials are shown before a COVID-19 vaccine drive-thru clinic at Richardson stadium in Kingston, Ont., on Friday, Jul. 2, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Lars Hagberg

A BC Supreme Court judged has ordered the jury in a first-degree murder trial in Vancouver to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Justice James W. Williams said that all jurors in Alvaro Julio Roche Garcia’s murder trial, which was scheduled to begin on Oct. 4, must have two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.

“This trial takes place at a time when British Columbia is coping with a significant COVID-19 pandemic. The numbers have recently been in an increasing mode; the Public Health Officer continues to make orders and impose restrictions with a view to managing the situation,” Williams stated in oral reasons from a Sept. 29 hearing.

“I am very concerned that the jury trial upon which we are about to embark should be conducted in a way that maximizes the safety of all participants, most certainly including those members of the community whom we require to serve as jurors.”

Williams said that it would be a “wholly unfortunate outcome” if any of the jurors caught COVID-19 and a “travesty” if the diagnosis led to a mistrial.

While other judges have decided against requiring COVID-19 vaccinations, Williams said that in his view, they were necessary.

“In all the circumstances, I have concluded that it is appropriate to require that all persons who serve upon this jury will have received two doses of vaccine. If any of the panelists are unable to give their assurance as to having been vaccinated, or if any of the panelists elect not to inform the Court of their status, based upon their concern for personal privacy, those persons will not be appointed to the jury.”

B.C. recorded 1,986 cases and 11 deaths due to COVID-19 over the weekend. At least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine is required for many discretionary events and activities, with stricter requirements in place for the eastern Fraser Valley, Northern Health and Interior Health.

READ MORE: Quebec judge refuses request for fully vaccinated jury at Montreal trial


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