Former Ontario MLA Randy Hillier, who faces charges in connection with last year’s “Freedom Convoy,” is seeking for the second time to move his jury trial away from Ottawa.
Hillier’s lawyer argued in court Tuesday that widespread opposition to protests in the capital could lead to an unfair trial if his case is heard in the city.
Crown prosecutors, meanwhile, said legal safeguards were in place to ensure the jury’s impartiality.
Hillier faces nine charges in connection with his participation in protests in early 2022 against COVID-19 public health measures and the federal government.
These charges include a*sault on the public or a peace officer, criminal mischief, advising another to commit mischief, and resisting or obstructing a public or a peace officer.
Defense lawyer David Abner said the “political demonization” of the convoy movement in Ottawa, particularly by local politicians, “has the effect of potentially tainting the jurors’ point of view.”
He also said the City of Ottawa’s opposition to the convoy movement could harm the trial.
Abner highlighted, for example, the city’s decision to award a reward to downtown resident Zexi Li, the lead plaintiff in a cla*s-action lawsuit against convoy organizers that helped secure a temporary injunction barring demonstrators to honk their trucks.
Abner also said that media coverage of the protests could have had a negative impact on public opinion.
But Crown prosecutor Dallas Mack said the protests had benefited from national and international coverage featuring diverse perspectives on the issue.
Mack said legal principles and precedence mean jurors must be trusted to set aside biases or preconceived notions, regardless of the location of the trial.
Superior Court Judge Kevin Phillips denied Hillier’s initial change of venue request, citing procedural safeguards that would ensure a fair trial.
In fashion now
In April, Phillips summarily rejected such requests from Hillier and convoy organizer Pat King. He made the decision a day before Hillier’s lawyer was ready to present arguments on why the trial should be moved.
Phillips ruled he was bound by an earlier court ruling in the case of convoy organizer James Bauder, who also argued unsuccessfully to have his trial moved to another area.
But an unrelated Supreme Court ruling days later suggested that justices take a more cautious approach when summarily dismissing claims, leading Phillips to reverse his own rulings and allow new claims to be filed before a court. another judge.
“The first judge was wrong,” Abner said Tuesday.
He cited Perth or Pembroke as possible locations if the trial was moved.
“We do not favor any specific jurisdiction. We just don’t think it’s appropriate to be in Ottawa,” Abner said.
The court adjourned on Tuesday before Justice Anne London-Weinstein issued a ruling.
The next hearing in this case is scheduled for October 6.
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