A lawyer's bizarre behaviour while disguised in civilian clothes and sitting in the public gallery of a court room has caused the abandonment of a murder trial.
A Canadian jury was discharged on Monday (22 November) after a lawyer made gestures and pulled faces that upset jurors while the defendant was giving evidence.
The Globe and Mail reports that Ontario Superior Court Justice Nola Garton discharged the jurors that were sitting in a Toronto murder trial after a "blonde male" was ejected.
The man in question, who turned up to court in casual dress and sat in the front row of the public gallery, was the crown lawyer Paul Alexander.
While Erika Mendieta, the defendant accused of killing her one-and-a-half year old daughter, was giving evidence, Alexander made "deep looks" of dislike and made gestures with his mouth and eyes that gave the impression Mendieta was lying.
As Alexander was gesticulating, the jury made a note that they found the "strange faces" he was making to be "distracting" and that they were uncomfortable by his continued presence in the courtroom.
Justice Garton is now considering a request from the defence counsel to reach a verdict on her own.
Alexander was on the prosecution team at Mendieta's first trial, which ended in a hung jury.
"As far as members of the jury were concerned, he would appear to simply be a member of the general public," Judge Garton said.
The president of the Canadian Criminal Lawyers Association, Paul Burstein, said that courtrooms "are not high-school cafeterias". "If counsel disagrees with what a witness is saying, they can't diss them through visible non-verbal reactions," he said.
No decision has been made as to whether Alexander will face disciplinary action.
Folklaw thinks this should provide a cautionary tale as to what can happen when lawyers swap the suit for the civvies.
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