An attempt by four groups to have the jury selection for the October Morgentaler trial in Toronto investigated has failed. The Hamilton Right to Life association, the Catholic Women’s League of Canada, the Alliance for Life and the Coalition for the Protection of Human Life applied to “intervene” in the Crown’s Appeal due on April 29, of the November 1984 jury acquittal.
The brief, filed with the Court on April 11, stated that it was “offensive” that the jury was chosen purposely so as to exclude those “who profess a religion.” The reference was to the claim of the two American experts hired by Morgentaler lawyer, Morris Manning, that they had succeeded in eliminating from the jury, housewives (with more than two children), regular churchgoers, young men and older professionals.
Last October, jury selection took four days, and 120 out of 132 prospective jurors were turned down. The Manning method was a further and more public refinement of the techniques used in Montreal in the early seventies when Morgentaler lawyer, Claude Sheppard, managed three times in a row to bar churchgoing Catholics from jury duty without the prosecutors understanding what was going on. Today, again, jury selection is not one of the grounds on which the Crown is appealing the case. (See January Interim for Appeal grounds.)
Ontario Chief Justice William Howland disallowed the intervention. “In a criminal proceeding, the crown represents the public interest and it alone is given the right to appeal from an acquittal,” he ruled. He pointed out that it was a “very serious matter” to allow third parties to raise legal issues. “If one third party could do it, then why not others?” It would be a different matter, he said, if the third party seeking to intervene could throw light on an issue because of its special expertise or knowledge. But that was not the case in this instance. “To permit a third party to intervene to raise an additional ground of appeal would enlarge the scope of a Crown appeal … beyond that contemplated by Parliament.”
While the intervention itself was denied, the attempt to intervene was valuable, nevertheless. It brought considerable publicity once more to the issue of jury selection as practiced by the Morgentaler legal propaganda organization.