To the Editor,
A lawyer friend of mine said to me the other day ‘Did you know that we have a new appeal process in our country?”
He continued, after I didn’t answer, “Yes, it’s a new panel made up of the minster of justice, the solicitor general and the Prime Minister. If someone doesn’t like the outcome of a trial, you can appeal to them and you will be given sympathy, criticism of the promise and the promise ‘to make things better.’”
I am talking about the recent Stanley-Boushie trial in Saskatchewan, of course. A jury found a white farmer not guilty, based on the defense theory that the death of the young indigenous man was an accident.
The jury system has been a fundamental part of the English justice system for many hundreds of years – ordinary men and women from all walks of like, who are expected to be fair and objective.
To ensure that a jury is indeed fair and as free of bias and prejudice as is humanly possible, the crown prosecutor and the lawyer for the defense have the right to object (called “challenges”) to certain persons from serving on a jury. In the Stanley trial, not one person of native, aboriginal or indigenous ancestry or heritage was selected for the jury. Considering the coast-to-coast uproar and the various protests and media coverages prior to the trial even starting, it must have been hard to pick an impartial jury. As it turned this jury truly believed in Stanley’s version of the events that led to the death of the young man.
I was not at the trial. I have not read the transcript of the evidence. I don’t know whether the jury made the right decision. This is not the point of this letter.
Rather, my point is that if a jury makes a “perverse verdict,” that is one that is defined as being altogether contrary to the evidence before it, it can be and should be appealed. In the words, if the twelve persons who judged Mr. Stanley were influenced by anything (bias, prejudice, racism, fear) other than a fair assessment of the facts, then their verdict should be appealed.
Therefore, to come back to the beginning, the proper and time-honoured process is to rely upon the judicial system in this country and not have elected persona of whatever status interfere with it.
The separation of power between the judiciary and legislative arms is sacrosanct. It is a cornerstone of a modern democratic country, which should not be endangered by anyone, whatever the politically-motivated goal or cause may be.
Morris Haugg, Amherst