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Snelgrove sexual assault trial stalled; sheriffs go to Costco, a gym looking for new jurors

RNC Const. Doug Snelgrove (foreground), sitting in the dock next to his lawyers Randy Piercey (centre) and Jon Noonan, prepares for the commencement of his sexual assault trial in Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court in St. John's Wednesday morning. The trial didn't get underway as planned, since a number of jurors requested to be excused and Justice Garrett Handrigan sent sheriff's officers out to find a group of 40 new people from which the court could select replacements for them.
RNC Const. Doug Snelgrove (foreground), sitting in the dock next to his lawyers Randy Piercey (centre) and Jon Noonan, prepares for the commencement of his sexual assault trial in Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court in St. John's Wednesday morning. The trial didn't get underway as planned, since a number of jurors requested to be excused and Justice Garrett Handrigan sent sheriff's officers out to find a group of 40 new people from which the court could select replacements for them.

Complainant is expected to be the first to testify when trial begins Thursday

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

Some of them only meant to pop out for groceries, but instead they ended up in a jury pool.

Sheriff’s officers at Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court took to the streets Wednesday afternoon to find 40 new people to summon to court for jury duty for the sexual assault trial of RNC Const. Doug Snelgrove.

Snelgrove, 43, is accused of sexually assaulting a woman while he was on duty in St. John’s in 2015.

Jury selection took place earlier in the week, with 12 jurors and two alternate jurors selected by the end of the day Tuesday. When the matter was due to begin Wednesday morning, Justice Garrett Handrigan was informed two jury members and one of the alternates were looking to be excused. After hearing their reasons, which have not been disclosed, Handrigan dismissed them and tasked the sheriff’s officers with finding a new group of people from which the court could choose replacements.

The officers went to the Village Shopping Centre, GoodLife Fitness, Walmart, Sobeys and Costco, handing out summonses to surprised members of the public, obligating them to show up at 2 p.m. at the former School for the Deaf, where the trial is taking place in an off-site courtroom with more space to allow for social distancing.

As the selection process began once again, potential jurors stood in a line, some carrying gym bags, waiting for their turn before the judge. Some were granted exemptions before two new jurors and two alternates were chosen within an hour. Handrigan didn’t dismiss the rest of the crowd, though, asking them to return to court Thursday morning, just in case. He will dismiss them once the trial is underway.

Though it’s not common, it’s not the first time sheriff’s officers have been asked to take people off the street for jury duty selection. The last time it happened was during the murder trial of Al Potter in February 2019.

If there are no issues with the jury Thursday morning, Snelgrove’s trial will begin with Handrigan delivering his preliminary instructions before handing the proceedings over to prosecutor Lloyd Strickland and defence lawyers Randy Piercey and Jon Noonan for their opening submissions. It’s expected the complainant will be the first to testify.

This is Snelgrove’s second time being tried on the sexual assault charge. He was originally acquitted by a jury in 2017 before the Crown appealed and a new trial was ordered. He has been suspended from the RNC without pay since the sexual assault allegation came to light four years ago, pending the outcome of his court case and a subsequent internal investigation.

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