Jury was not pressured, court rules

A Yukoner who claimed his Carmacks jury was pressured to reach a verdict because they didn't want to travel to Whitehorse has lost his appeal.

A Yukoner who claimed his Carmacks jury was pressured to reach a verdict because they didn’t want to travel to Whitehorse has lost his appeal.

Joseph Townsend, also known as Joseph Desjarlais, was convicted of sexual assault after a three-day trial in November 2011.

He would later be sentenced to eight and a half years in prison.

The assault took place in Pelly Crossing but the trial happened in Carmacks.

The jury was made up of members from both communities.

After hearing testimony, the jury began its deliberations just after noon on Nov. 23.

About four hours later they returned to the courtroom and gave Yukon Supreme Court Justice Ron Veale a piece of paper that said “undecided.”

In his response, the judge told the jury that the “normal process is to keep going.” If their deliberations continued overnight, the judge said, they would be taken to Whitehorse, where there were accommodations, the decision says.

According to the Yukon Court of Appeal decision released this week, the jury also asked for more instructions about some of the legal issues in the case.

After hearing those instructions, they continued to deliberate. They returned with a guilty verdict after about half an hour.

“The appellant maintains the trial judge introduced extraneous considerations into the jury’s deliberations when he informed the jurors that they would be sequestered overnight in Whitehorse, approximately two hours driving time away from Carmacks,” Yukon Court of Appeal Justice Risa Levine wrote in her ruling.

“This information came at a time when the jury had indicated to the trial judge that they were undecided and required clarification of a number of substantive issues. The appellant says the jurors were made aware that they faced significant inconvenience if they failed to reach a verdict that day.”

Townsend pointed to the half hour between the instructions and the guilty verdict as a sign that there was pressure during the deliberations.

But the Court of Appeal disagreed.

If the jurors had been told earlier in the trial about the plans for being sequestered, they would have been similarly inconvenienced, Justice Levine wrote.

“Second, in my opinion it amounts to speculation that a juror would allow a concern about his or her personal inconvenience to, in effect, violate the juror’s oath to decide the case based on the evidence.

“Jurors take their role seriously, and it would be contrary to our expectations of the jury system to conclude that it is ‘reasonably possible’ that a juror would allow his or her personal inconvenience to eclipse the importance of the juror’s responsibility.”

Justice Levine went on to point out that the last thing the jurors heard from the trial judge was the further instructions in response to their questions, not the information about going to Whitehorse.

It is more likely that those instructions caused them to reach agreement than the information about travelling to Whitehorse, she said.

Contact Ashley Joannou at


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Wyatt's World for Oct. 28, 2020.

Wyatt’s World for Oct. 28.… Continue reading

Yukon Child Care Board chair Amy Ryder says the board could be playing a bigger role in childcare policy making if they had more financial support from the Yukon government. (Submitted)
Yukon Child Care Board asks for larger role in annual report

The board is asking for a larger budget to increase outreach and advice

Yukon’s clocks will no longer change in March and November but will remain permanently on Pacific Daylight Saving Time. (Courtesy Yukon government)
Off the clock: Yukon prepares to end seasonal time changes

Starting on Nov. 1 Yukon will be one hour ahead of Vancouver and two hours ahead of Alaska

Dawson City as scene from West Dawson. Art Webster, the vice-chair of the Dawson Regional Planning Commission resigned last month over the Yukon governments unwillingness to pause speculative staking. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Vice-chair resigns from Dawson land-use planning commission

NDP warns that not pausing mining activity is the road to a second Peel decision

The opening ceremonies of the Canada Summer Games in Winnipeg on July 28, 2017. The 2021 Canada Summer Games have officially been rescheduled for Aug. 6 to 21, 2022, exactly one year from the date the national competition was originally set to take place in the Niagara region of Ontario. (Canada Summer Games/Flickr)
Canada Summer Games dates set for 2022 but uncertainty remains for Yukon athletes

Yukon athletes continue waiting to get back into schools

A proposed Official Community Plan amendment would designate a 56.3 hectare piece of land in Whistle Bend currently designated as green space, as urban residential use. Whitehorse city council passed first reading on a bylaw for the designation change at its Oct. 26 meeting, prompting an upcoming public hearing on Nov. 23 ahead of second reading on Dec. 7. (Courtesy City of Whitehorse)
Local contractors will be given an advantage on a contract for the design and construction services that will see a new reception building at Robert Service Campground decided city councillors during the Oct. 26 council meeting. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Local firms will get advantage on contract for new Robert Service Campground building

Yukon-based companies competing for contract for new reception building will receive 20 extra points

Fallen trees due to strong winds are seen leaning on to power lines which caused some power outages around the territory on Oct. 26. (Courtesy of ATCO)
Wind knocks out power around the Yukon

High winds on Oct. 26 knocked out power to Faro, parts of Whitehorse and beyond

The Yukon government is asking for all claims in a lawsuit over the Takhini elk herd be struck by the court. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)
Yukon government asks for Takhini elk lawsuit to be struck

The Yukon government is asking for all claims in a lawsuit over… Continue reading

The Yukon government has filed a reply to an outfitter’s petition challenging the reduction of its caribou quota to zero. (Yukon News file)
YG replies to outfitter’s legal challenge over caribou quota

The Yukon government has filed a reply to an outfitter’s petition challenging… Continue reading

The Yukon government is encouraging people to get the flu vaccine this year, saying that with COVID-19, it’s “more important than ever.” (Black Press file)
Get flu vaccine, Yukon government urges

The Yukon government is encouraging people to get the flu vaccine this… Continue reading

Benjamin Munn, 12, watches the HPV vaccine in 2013. Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine will be available to all Yukoners up to, and including, age 26. Currently the program is only available to girls ages nine to 18 and boys ages nine to 14. (Dan Bates/Black Press file)
HPV vaccine will be available to Yukoners up to, including, age 26

Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine will be available… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Most Read