Was the decision of the supreme court a sound one?  http://www.indigenousbar.ca/cases/williams.PDF

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ophelious | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

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I can help sort through the issue at stake so that you can form an opinion.

Essentially, the case goes something like this:

Victor Williams is an aborigine, meaning he is recognized as being part of a group of people who have inhabited an area for a really long time (i.e. before Europeans came and then some.)  He was accused of robbing a pizza place, a crime he said he did not commit.

Williams believed that many of the jurors that would be deciding his fate were likely to have bias against him because he is aboriginal.  He wanted to be able to challenge the various jurors and dismiss the ones he thought would have a racial bias against.   Originally he was allowed to do this, but apparently the process caused a lot of publicity and motions were filed to declare a mistrial.

Though Williams felt the mistrial was meant to start the process over again and keep him from having some say in the selection process, the motion was granted and a new trial started.  During this one, though, the new judge decided that Williams should not have the ability to question the jurors before hand.  His opinion was that even though the jurors might harbor "minor prejudice" against aborigines, they would be able to set aside those prejudices in the interest of having a fair trial.  This went as far as the judge not even instructing the jury to beware of such possible prejudices and guard against them.

The trial went forth and Williams was found guilty.  He appealed, of course, on the grounds that he wasn't allowed to question jurors and be certain he received ones that were impartial and he won a new trial because the appellate judge disagreed with the notion that people could set aside prejudices.

This process is different in America and Canada.  In America, jurors are assumed to be tainted and therefore it is important to weed out the worst.  In Canada, jurors are assumed to be impartial and so one must have a good reason to even question their fairness.  That's one of the issues at the heart of this.

The question you've asked is whether or not to agree with the decision to allow Williams a new trial.  That hinges on whether you believe that people who are biased, though not enough to be blatant, can set those biases aside or not in order to have a fair trial.  That's something you'll have to think about for yourself.  Should every trial be made longer and more expensive to give defendants a right to challenge all jurors, or is efficiency and speed more important?

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