Jurors Talking about Case Openly

After a troubled few months, the Dean Blundell show has been removed and will no longer be featured on 102.1 the Edge’s regular programming. Blundell has been a staple on the rock and alternative station for over 13 years, but had faced intense scrutiny after homophobic remarks were made on the air. Blundell producer, Derek Welsman, an occasional on-air personality of the popular show, served as a jury foreman on a sex assault case in September 2013.

Welsman had crudely referenced the case on the radio program, and made jokes that centered on the sexual orientation of the accused. The shock-jock show has repeatedly been at odds with the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council for crossing the line on radio airwaves. Blundell issued an apology but was suspended.

The case involved Joshua Dowholis, who was convicted of three counts of aggravated sexual assault and two counts of forcible confinement. Mr. Dowholis had argued that the sexual encounter was consensual and that he did inform the complainants that he is HIV positive. Mr. Dowholis’ legal team has said that they will appeal the guilty decision in part because they believe that Mr. Welsman held a bias against homosexuals and was therefore unable to act in a fair and just capacity. This is not the first time that the program has been under scrutiny for insensitive and prejudicial comments.

In recent decision involving Blundell and Welsman, the show was found to violate the Canadian Association of Broadcasters Code of Ethics and Equitable Portrayal Code for joking about wrestling being a “gay” sport after a man was found to have died from being stuck in a rolled-up wrestling mat.

Edward Prutschi, a criminal lawyer at Bytensky Prutschi Shikhman and legal analyst, was a guest on NewsTalk1010 to discuss this case and some of the pressing questions that arise from it. One of the more insistent questions that has been asked about this case is, why is it illegal in Canada for jury members to discuss what happened in the jury room once a case is concluded? Mr. Prutschi says that there are two distinct elements of a jury trial and what a jury can or cannot discuss in a case they are overseeing.

The first one is “advisory” in the sense that in the course of a trial, a judge would tell jury members that they should not discuss the evidence they hear with anyone outside the courtroom setting. This means that the judge will advise the jurors to not go discuss the case with their spouses, family or friends.

The second element of this, the one that is clearly illegal and generally prohibited in the Criminal Code and common law, is that jurors are told they cannot discuss anything that happens outside the courtroom. This means anything that the jurors are not discussing in front of a lawyer or judge, cannot be disclosed to anyone else. The rationale behind this prohibition is to create a bubble of secrecy, whereby the jurors can operate freely without any concerns of reprisal or criticism of their thought process that may be levelled against them by outside parties.

Please play the audio clip to listen to the rest of the insightful and in-depth discussion.

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