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Wise trial thrown into turmoil with allegations of jury room threats and bullying

A courtroom sketch of Jimmy Wise.
A courtroom sketch of Jimmy Wise.

The second-degree murder trial of Chesterville mechanic Jimmy Wise was thrown into turmoil Saturday with evidence about physical threats, bullying and tears inside the jury room.

Superior Court Justice Kevin Phillips ultimately dismissed one jury member after interviewing seven jury members, one by one.

In extraordinary testimony, one jury member described the deliberations room as “a toxic environment.” Others told court that juror number 11 told one juror to f— off, threatened to punch a juror in the nose and spoke aloud about how he wished other jurors’ parents could be murdered so that they might understand the pain of such an event.

Phillips called juror number 11 into the courtroom and confronted him with the allegations.

“I’d say I’d like to leave this thing,” juror 11 replied.

Phillips asked the man if he should take from his response that “those things are true?”

“Those things I did say,” the juror admitted.

After dismissing the juror and sending him home, the judge ordered the seven-woman, four-man jury to continue deliberations on a verdict in the case of James Henry “Jimmy” Wise, 77, who is accused in the “execution-style” shooting of Ray Collison.

The jury has been deliberating behind closed doors since Wednesday.

“It is my view, hopeful as it might be, that, with the removal of that problematic juror, that you might more be able to properly deliberate,” Phillips told the jury.

Crown attorney Michael Purcell had asked the judge to declare a mistrial in the case given that jury secrecy had been pierced and the fairness of the trial impugned. Phillips, however, said a mistrial was a last resort.

The jury was into its fourth day of deliberations Saturday when the foreman sent a note to the judge around 11 a.m., saying it was unable to reach a unanimous verdict. He said further attempts at reaching one would be futile.

In court, Phillips also revealed to lawyers that he had received a note from the court services officer assigned to protect the sequestered jury.

The officer reported, Phillips said, that one juror had threatened others and had made threats of physical violence against them and their families.

“The result of that is tremendous upset in the jury room,” said Phillips, who sought the advice of prosecution and defence lawyers about how to proceed.

Phillips said he was considering the launch of a courtroom investigation into whether a crime had been committed in the jury room, a place normally governed by absolute secrecy.

“It is axiomatic in our law that jury deliberations are forever to be kept secret,” he said, “but the jury room is also governed by the basics of our criminal law, including the prohibition against making threats.”

Phillips began his courtroom investigation with the jury foreman, who told court that some jurors were making deliberations difficult because of their interruptions, swearing and other offensive language.

One juror, the foreman said, told others in the room that, “I wish this could happen to your parents so that you know how it feels.” The foreman said he believed the juror was referring to murder.

Another male juror pointed at the same individual, juror 11, as someone who “chirped” whenever others presented arguments.

“It’s fine in a sporting event, but, in something like this, we don’t need any chirping,” the man said. The juror accused the individual of bullying his fellow jurors, particularly the women, interrupting them, not listening to them and making comments under his breath.

“It’s a professional surrounding, it’s not beer league hockey,” he said. “I expect more professionalism in the jury room.”

One female juror described the jury room as a toxic environment where people were afraid to speak their minds for fear of being attacked or bullied.

Said another female juror: “Every day there are people who are crying.”

The jury is weighing the circumstantial evidence against Wise, who is accused of killing Collision in a backyard garage, then stuffing his body into a drainage culvert.

The skeletal remains of Collison, 58, a Chesterville handyman, were found in April 2014, five years after he disappeared. An autopsy revealed he had been shot as many as five times, including once in the back of the head.

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

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