The judge gives his instructions to the jury at the trial of Lac-Mégantic

Photo: The canadian Press
July 6, 2013, a convoy of 72 cars of crude oil was set in motion without human intervention, and had rolled down the slope leading to Lac-Megantic, exploding and razing part of the city centre.

“Rest assured that person has not ceased thinking of the people of Mégantic,” said the judge Gaetan Dumas, after having read his instructions to the jury Wednesday, the criminal trial on the train derailment in Lac-Mégantic, in which 47 people lost their lives.

 

He was keen to address these words to the victims of the tragedy.

 

The judge Dumas was given Wednesday during the day its instructions to the jury, warning them that they must make a verdict without sympathy or prejudice against the accused, and without taking into account the public opinion.

 

The jury is now confined for the duration of its deliberations secret.

 

This is the ultimate stage of the trial is scheduled to begin Thursday morning at the courthouse of Sherbrooke.

 

The jurors will have to decide on the guilt of the three accused, the train conductor Thomas Harding, the controller of railway Richard Labrie, and the director of operations of the Montreal, Maine Atlantic (MMA) in Quebec, Jean Demaître.

 

They all three have pleaded not guilty to charges of criminal negligence causing the death of 47 people.

 

The possible verdicts are the following : the three men can be found guilty or not guilty of criminal negligence causing death.

 

In the case of Thomas Harding, two other verdicts can be pronounced : dangerous operation of rail equipment causing death and dangerous operation of rail equipment. This is offences that are included in that of criminal negligence.

 

On the 6th of July, in the morning, a convoy of 72 cars of crude oil was set in motion without human intervention, and had rolled down the slope leading to Lac-Megantic, exploding and razing part of the city centre of this small municipality in the Estrie region.

 

The judge Dumas, of the superior Court, was offered Wednesday its instructions — very detailed and simultaneously in French and in English.

 

He reminded the jury that it must make its three verdicts based solely on the evidence presented in the courtroom.

 

“You have to look at the evidence and make your decision without bias, fear or sympathy. You do not need to take account of public opinion, ” said the magistrate, in this case that has made headlines and has been followed across the country.

 

Verdicts must also be unanimous, he explained.

 

The judge Dumas has also insisted on something he considers important : it is not the trial of the railway company MMA, which operated the train, or of one of its leaders.

 

This is the trial of three men accused of having been careless of individual and independent between 4 and 6 July 2013, has pointed to the magistrate.

 

The MMA will undergo his criminal trial later in the case.

 

The judge also detailed some of the principles of criminal law : the accused are presumed innocent and the Crown has the burden of proof and who must prove their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

 

The three accused does not have to demonstrate that they are innocent, continued judge Dumas. In fact, they have nothing to prove. For its part, the Crown does not have to demonstrate that the three men had intended to kill the 47 victims.

 

As this is criminal negligence, it is only necessary to prove that their behavior — their actions or omissions — was a marked difference and significant with respect to that of a reasonable person in the same position and in the same circumstances.

 

In short, to be convicted, the accused must have failed to do something that they had a duty to accomplish — and by that, have shown a reckless dissolute or reckless with respect to the lives of others, like the people of Lac-Mégantic. It is also necessary that their behaviour has caused the death of 47 people, explained the judge Dumas.

 

Not need that their actions or omissions were the sole cause of death, said the judge. But this ” must be at least a contributing factor “.

 

When they were fourteen jurors throughout the trial, only twelve will make a verdict. Two people were drawn at random on Wednesday evening and have returned home.

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