After three full days of a jury selection process, the murder trial of Brandon Phillips will get underway Thursday.
Six women and six men have been selected to form the jury that will hear the case alongside Justice Valerie Marshall at Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court in St. John’s over the next six weeks.
The 12 jurors, along with two alternates, were chosen from more than 800 members of the public originally called for jury duty, whittled down through exemptions and a process called challenge for cause.
The process sees potential jurors asked a series of questions by lawyers in an effort to determine if they are able to be impartial. Once a juror is selected, they become a “trier,” having a say in whether or not others are accepted as part of the jury. The Crown and defence lawyers also have the opportunity to reject those they believe are unsuitable.
Phillips murder trial jury selection moves into day 3 in St. John’s court
Marshall briefly addressed the jury Wednesday afternoon before dismissing them for the day, telling them they aren’t permitted to speak about the case to anyone, nor to go online and seek out information or details about it.
“All these requests, I’m sure you can appreciate, go to the purpose of ensuring a fair trial,” Marshall said.
A number of the jurors nodded their understanding.
“This will be a rewarding experience for you,” the judge continued. “It will be interesting, but it will also be challenging, and it will require your full attention.”
The jury will be back in the courtroom at 2 p.m. Thursday, when Marshall will instruct them on the law and how they are to apply it before the trial gets started.
More than two dozen witnesses could be called to testify between now and the end of December.
Phillips, 29, has pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree murder, armed robbery, assault with a weapon, possessing a weapon dangerous to the public, and wearing a disguise with the intention to commit a crime in connection with the death of Larry Wellman, 63, in October 2015.
Wellman and his wife were patrons of the bar at the Captain’s Quarters hotel in St. John’s when Phillips is alleged to have attempted to rob the bar, armed with a gun. Wellman reportedly tried to stop the robbery, when Phillips is said to have shot and killed him.
Phillips was arrested at a residence on Quidi Vidi Road a week later and has been in custody ever since.
Phillips spent the last three days in the dock at Supreme Court, and members of Wellman’s family were in the courtroom, too, taking in the jury selection process.
Phillips is represented by lawyers Mark Gruchy and Jeff Brace. Prosecutors in the case are Shauna MacDonald and Mark Heerema, lawyers from Nova Scotia brought in to represent the Crown in order to avoid a possible conflict of interest, since Phillips’ girlfriend at the time of the incident was Premier Dwight Ball’s daughter, Jade Ball.
MacDonald and Heerema say they have no plans to call the premier or his daughter to testify at the trial.
Lawyers will deal with some legal issues in court Thursday morning, with the first witness expected to be called later in the afternoon.