Some people brought books, others busied themselves with their phones, and others took advantage of the long wait to close their eyes for naps while sitting up.
Courtroom No. 1 at Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court in St. John’s wasn’t as crowded as it was on Monday, but it was stuffier, given the warmer temperature outside, a lack of air conditioning in the old building and the 121 potential jurors — all those who hadn’t yet been excused — back on the benches for a second day of jury selection.
By the end of the day, 35 more had been released from their duty, while nine had been sworn in as jurors in the murder trial of 29-year-old Brandon Phillips. Five more are needed before the trial can begin.
Jury selection in this case is a long and complicated process known as challenge for cause. It’s a jury selection procedure implemented, usually at the application of the defence, in cases that have seen extensive media coverage in the period leading up to trial.
One by one, potential jurors are asked a series of questions, which are banned from publication, to reveal any biases and to determine their ability to be impartial. The Crown and defence lawyers are each allowed 22 challenges or rejections of jurors.
Once selected, the jurors become “triers,” and have a say in deciding whether or not a prospective juror appears to have an opinion they might not be able to set aside.
Twelve jurors and two alternates will be selected before Phillips’ trial begins.
Phillips sat in the dock in Courtroom 1 on Tuesday, while 20 jurors were called forward at a time and brought to a second courtroom for the challenge for cause questioning. Phillips, escorted by sheriff’s officers, followed them.
Family members of Larry Wellman were in the second courtroom, taking in the proceedings.
Wellman, 63, is the man Phillips is alleged to have murdered in the first degree; shot, police say, during a robbery at the Captain’s Quarters hotel on Kings Bridge Road in St. John’s in October 2015. Wellman was reportedly a patron in the hotel bar who tried to intervene in the robbery.
Phillips was arrested after a weeklong manhunt and charged with murder, armed robbery, wearing a disguise with the intention to commit a crime, assault with a weapon and unlawfully possessing a weapon dangerous to the public. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges and is represented by lawyers Mark Gruchy and Jeff Brace.
Lawyers Shauna MacDonald and Mark Heerema were called in from Nova Scotia to prosecute, in an effort to avoid a conflict of interest in the case, given that Phillips’ girlfriend at the time of the incident was Premier Dwight Ball’s daughter, Jade Ball. The pair have long since split.