Juror dismissed in python trial as Crown prepares to call final witness
Kevin Bissett, THE CANADIAN PRESS
Published Friday, November 4, 2016 7:35AM ADT
Last Updated Friday, November 4, 2016 2:45PM ADT
CAMPBELLTON, N.B. -- A juror was dismissed Friday from the criminal negligence trial in the deaths of two young New Brunswick brothers killed by an escaped python.
The trial in Campbellton, N.B., was to hear from the Crown's final witness in the case against Jean-Claude Savoie Friday, but the courtroom remained closed while lawyers and the judge met behind closed doors.
When public proceedings finally resumed at noon, Judge Fred Ferguson announced that a juror had been removed.
"Juror number 335, after a lengthy hearing, has been relieved of her duties to continue as a member of this jury, and on the recommendation of counsel and the order of the court, juror number 335 was discharged late this morning," he told the court.
No reasons were given for the change, which leaves seven women and four men to hear the case. The judge said the details of the closed hearing will remain sealed until the jury begins deliberations.
"We're going to soldier on," Ferguson said.
The lawyers then entered two admission of facts, which is often done in trials to help reduce the number of witnesses and the length of a trial.
Both documents were read aloud by Crown prosecutor Pierre Roussel.
"Jean-Claude Savoie admits the following facts: On or about Aug, 5, 2013, a snake that he had in his custody, namely an African rock python, was able to escape from an enclosure located in his residence located at 2 Pleasant Street, Campbellton ... through a ventilation pipe. That said snake thus got access to the living room of said residence where Connor Barthe and Noah Barthe were sleeping. That said snake then proceeded to attack both Connor Barthe and Noah Barthe and cause their death by asphyxiation," he said.
The second document was an admission that in 2002, the Canadian Wildlife Service took custody of a juvenile African rock python in Saint John. They approached Savoie, and he assumed possession of the snake. No money changed hands.
The ventilation pipe has been a focus of testimony during the trial. Witnesses said the snake had tried to escape through it previously, and that the cover for the ventilation duct had been spotted on the floor of the python's enclosure.
One witness said the diameter of the hole appeared too small for the diameter of the python, but one expert testified the snake was able to constrict its size.
Savoie, who now lives near Montreal, is charged with criminal negligence causing death. At the start of the trial he pleaded not-guilty.
Proceedings were adjourned Friday without hearing testimony and will resume Monday. At that time the court will hear from Bob Johnson, a former curator of reptiles and amphibians at the Toronto Zoo.
Four-year-old Noah and six-year-old Connor Barthe were killed by Savoie's African rock python during a sleepover in his apartment on Aug. 5, 2013.
A pathologist who conducted the autopsies on the boys said Thursday that they died of asphyxiation after the snake coiled itself around them and bit them repeatedly.
The case is expected to go to the jury by the middle of next week.