Selecting 16 people to sit on the jury for what could be one of the longest murder trials in Yukon history has been going on all week in a Whitehorse hotel.
By Thursday afternoon, 14 jurors had been chosen.
Christina Marie Asp is charged with first-degree murder in connection with the death of Gordon Seybold.
The 63-year-old’s remains were found in the rubble of his torched Ibex Valley home in March 2008.
After about a year and a half of undercover, investigative work by numerous RCMP officers and detachments, Asp and co-accused Norman Larue were arrested in Alberta and charged.
Originally, the two were set to stand trial together but sickness and financing delayed that trial and the Crown eventually decided to try them separately.
It was decided Asp’s trial would be held first. It’s expected to run for at least two months.
It is always difficult to find enough jurors for a trial of this length. Not only do people find it hard to take the time from work, families and other commitments, but the court’s sheriff is also tasked with finding more jurors than the usual 12, in case a juror gets sick or is unable to carry on.
In Asp’s trial, the sheriff wants 14 jurors, with two alternates, to make a total of 16.
According to the territory’s Jury Act, an employer can’t punish an employee who is summoned, meaning they cannot cut any seniority, holiday pay or threaten their employment security in any way. But it is the employer’s choice whether or not to grant the leave for jury duty with or without pay, the act says.
But jurors do receive a daily stipend of $80 once they are selected. That amount was last amended with an order-in-council in 2007. There are also possibilities for meal, travel and accommodation rate stipends.
The sheriff randomly picks who to call for jury duty from “the list” which is typically the broadest list available, said Department of Justice spokesman Dan Cable.
The Jury Act points out electoral lists or any other government-owned lists as acceptable choices.
The common practice in the Yukon is to use the list of health-care beneficiaries, which totals around 35,000 – a comparable sum to the territory’s population, Cable said.
Jurors cannot be younger than 19 years. They must be Canadian citizens and they cannot have served more than 12 months jail time or have a physical or mental disability that may affect their duties as a juror. Politicians, including chiefs, are exempt, as well as RCMP officers, judges, lawyers, firefighters, corrections officers, postmasters, phone, radio and “telegraph” operators, doctors, dentists, pharmacists, and nurses.
For Asp’s trial, 400 people were initially contacted but only 167 responded. If people who are called for jury duty fail or refuse to show up, they can be fined $25 to $200.
If there are not enough jurors because too many have been excused or are unable to fulfill juror duties, the sheriff will simply keep randomly selecting names from the jury list until he is able to find the necessary number.
Twenty more people have been called in for selection on Friday, in hopes of finding the last two jurors, but selection will continue on Monday, before the trial begins, if the spots are not filled.
Larue, who has also been charged with arson, is expected to go to trial this fall. He has also elected for a trial by judge and jury.
Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at