Jury selection underway for three alleged 'key participants' of Coutts blockade

The trial for three alleged organizers of the 2022 Coutts border blockade began Tuesday in Lethbridge, Alberta.

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On Tuesday, the trial began for the Coutts 3 — George Janzen, Marco Van Huigenbos, and Alex Van Herk. These are the three men who often liaised with the police, who gave advice to the others.

At least that's how it looks like on the inside, it will be interesting to see what positions these men's lawyers take in court. Tuesday was jury selection, which is a very exciting and important thing. Most trials in Canada do not have juries, they're judge alone.

But by selecting a jury, these men have made the strategic calculation that they think they're more likely to get a sympathetic hearing by 12 of their neighbours than they are by a hand-appointed judge — most likely appointed by a Liberal prime minister.

But even if it was appointed by a Conservative, judges come from a certain socioeconomic strata. They are by definition men and women of the establishment. We've seen in other lockdown or pandemic trials that the judges tend to believe for example in the health industrial complex.

They would never be skeptical of a Theresa Tam or another public health officer. By making the deliberate choice to entrust their safety, future and liberty with their neighbours, they're saying I trust the common sense and common people more than I trust the wisdom of an elite judge. I think that's wise.

So jury selection — remembering from my law school days, I've never participated in a jury trial even when I was a lawyer — they sort for certain things. For example you can't be a lawyer on a jury. 

You might think well, wouldn't you want a lawyer on a jury? No, because other jurors would defer to that person too much. You wouldn't want someone who is blazingly partisan who says 'I know they're guilty' or 'I'll never convict.' You wouldn't want someone with a hard heart like that.

So there are questions that the prosecutors and defence lawyers will have agreed on to vet jurors. But then — again going from memory of law school some 30 years ago — you have what's called peremptory objections. You could say, 'I don't really like the cut of that person's jib, but I can't quite put my finger on it, but I get to play a certain number of these cards, I don't want that person on the jury.'

So it's a fairly high-stakes business jury selection. And it's going to be fascinating to see who each side objects to etc. And once that jury is empanelled, well then the business gets underway. 

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