Jury left short after four members exempted
It was the day many had anxiously anticipated for years — the start of the trial for suspected murderer David Folker.
Everyone gathered in Courtroom No. 4 at Newfoundland Supreme Court in St. John’s seemed ready for the case to finally be heard — the judge, the lawyers, Folker, as well as family members and friends of murder victim Ann Marie Shirran.
But just as things were set to get underway, the case hit another road bump when the judge announced there were problems that had arisen regarding the group chosen to hear the case.
Justice Wayne Dymond told the court that before the trial could begin, “issues with jurors” had to first be discussed. He asked that the courtroom be cleared, including members of the media, to allow him and the lawyers to deal with it.
When proceedings resumed half an hour later, Dymond announced that he had to exempt four jurors for medical and other “legitimate” reasons.
“It’s a bit of a setback,” the judge said. “They didn’t come forward (about these issues) on the day of selection.”
When the jury was chosen on Oct. 2, it consisted of six women and six men, with two alternates — a woman and a man.
When the jury returned to the courtroom Monday, there were seven women and two men. Four male jurors were dismissed, resulting in the alternates having to become full-time jurors.
Dymond said two additional jurors would need be selected from the remaining panel members, who showed up for jury duty last week. He said he would call those people back to court this morning.
“It shouldn’t be a long process,” Dymond said. “We could have two jurors in an hour.”
Crown prosecutors Iain Hollett and Lloyd Strickland will once again be present for the selection of the two jurors, as will Folker and his lawyers, Jason Edwards and Scott Hurley.
Dymond said the hope is to have the eight-week trial begin Wednesday morning.
Before dismissing the 10 jurors for the day, he offered them some reassuring words.
“It’s always a bit anxious with these trials,” he said. “But once the trial starts, things will settle down.
“This is just part of the process and the process works. … These things happen. Every case is different. Every case has snags. But in the long run, things will work out. We’ll get through it.”
It was of little consolation to Shirran’s family members and friends, who have waited three years to see the trial get underway. Many of them walked out of the courtroom shaking their heads.
Shirran disappeared in July 2010. It was Folker who reportedly first told authorities that she was missing.
The 32-year-old woman was reportedly last seen near the Kilbride home she shared with Folker and their young son.
Campers discovered her body on Sept. 2, 2010, in the woods south of Cappahayden on the Southern Shore. Folker was arrested less than 24 hours after police revealed it was Shirran’s body.
The trial was originally set to start more than a year and a half ago in February 2012, but Folker’s lawyer at the time, Bob Simmonds, had to drop the case, citing his schedule and financial reasons.
Folker faces charges of second-degree murder and improperly or indecently interfering with or performing an indignity to a human body.
He’s been free since December 2010, when he was granted bail on the condition he live with his mother in Nova Scotia. Folker will be staying in the St. John’s area while the trial is ongoing.