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

Dawson the dog sits next to the Chariot Patrick Jackson has loaded and rigged up to walk the Dempster Highway from where it begins, off the North Klondike Highway, to the Arctic Circle. (Submitted)
Walking the Dempster

Patrick Jackson gets set for 405-kilometre journey

Liberal leader Sandy Silver speaks outside his campaign headquarters in Dawson City following early poll results on April 12. (Robin Sharp/Yukon News)
BREAKING: Minority government results will wait on tie vote in Vuntut Gwitchin

The Yukon Party and the Liberal Party currently have secured the same amount of seats

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
YUKONOMIST: The Neapolitan election

Do you remember those old bricks of Neapolitan ice cream from birthday… Continue reading

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Exposure notice issued for April 3 Air North flight

Yukon Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley has issued another… Continue reading

Crystal Schick/Yukon News file
Runners in the Yukon Arctic Ultra marathon race down the Yukon River near the Marwell industrial area in Whitehorse on Feb. 3, 2019.
Cold-weather exercise hard on the lungs

Amy Kenny Special to the Yukon News It might make you feel… Continue reading

Today’s Mailbox: Rent freezes and the youth vote

Dear Editor, I read the article regarding the recommendations by the Yukon… Continue reading

Point-in-Time homeless count planned this month

Volunteers will count those in shelters, short-term housing and without shelter in a 24-hour period.

The Yukon’s new ATIPP Act came into effect on April 1. Yukoners can submit ATIPP requests online or at the Legislative Assembly building. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News file)
New ATIPP Act in effect as of April 1

The changes promise increased government transparency

A new conservancy in northern B.C. is adjacent to Mount Edziza Provincial Park. (Courtesy BC Parks)
Ice Mountain Lands near Telegraph Creek, B.C., granted conservancy protection

The conservancy is the first step in a multi-year Tahltan Stewardship Initiative

Yukon RCMP reported a child pornography-related arrest on April 1. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press file)
Whitehorse man arrested on child pornography charges

The 43-year-old was charged with possession of child pornography and making child pornography

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The postponed 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been rescheduled for Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
New dates set for Arctic Winter Games

Wood Buffalo, Alta. will host event Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023

Victoria Gold Corp. has contributed $1 million to the First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun after six months of production at the Eagle Gold Mine. (Submitted/Victoria Gold Corp.)
Victoria Gold contributes $1 million to First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun

Victoria Gold signed a Comprehensive Cooperation and Benefits Agreement in 2011

Most Read