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Judge can’t order jury to convict

Article by: KEVIN MARTIN, SUN MEDIA
– Judges can’t usurp the role of jurors by instructing them to convict on overwhelming evidence, Canada’s top court ruled yesterday in giving pot crusader Grant Krieger a new trial.
The Supreme Court of Canada unanimously voted to overturn Krieger’s December 2003 trafficking conviction, saying jurors were entitled to vote with their conscience.
The court said Queen’s Bench Justice Paul Chrumka erred when he told a Calgary jury they had no choice but to find Krieger guilty, after his defence of necessity was dismissed.
“The trial judge unfortunately deprived the jurors of the responsibility that was by law theirs alone,” wrote Justice Morris Fish, in penning the Supreme court ruling.
Fish cited a proposition raised in an English case more than two centuries ago which said jurors can ignore the law if they can’t bring themselves to convict.
“It is the duty of the judge, in all cases of general justice, to tell the jury how to do right, though they have it in their power to do wrong,” Fish quoted from the English case.
Doing so “is a matter entirely between God and their own consciences.”
UNANIMOUS VERDICT
In the Krieger case two jurors asked to be dismissed after telling Chrumka they couldn’t abide by his instructions to convict.
The judge ordered them to do so and the jury eventually handed down a unanimous guilty verdict.
The Supreme Court’s ruling was applauded by Krieger and his Calgary lawyer, John Hooker.
“Ultimately I want a trial by my peers, not by a judge,” said Krieger, who used his Compassion Club to distribute marijuana to those, like himself, who needed it for medicinal purposes.
“That’s the only way laws change, through the general conscience (of citizens),” he said.
Hooker said the ruling goes to the heart of our democracy. “It really does reaffirm the right to a jury trial,” Hooker said.
A new trial isn’t expected until sometime next year.