Sally Fitzgibbons Foundation

Beginning the Academic Essay

A hearing on an appeal in the Supreme Court of Canada, from a judgment delivered in the Court of Appeal of British Columbia. Victor Daniel Williams (Appellant) v. Her Majesty the Queen (Respondent). An appeal was delivered by McLachlin J. The case of R. v. Williams commenced in October 1993 after Victor Daniel Williams, an aboriginal man was charged with robbery of a Victoria pizza parlor. Williams case was filed in the court where he pleaded not guilty and chose trial by a judge and jury. In his defense, Williams claimed that someone else other than he committed the robbery. At the beginning of the trial, Williams requested to challenge the jurors of his case for racial bias under the criminal code R.S.C., 1985. C. C-46, s. 638 which states that “an accused is entitled to any number of challenges on the grounds that a juror is not indifferent between the Queen and the accused. As such, the first trial judge, Hutchinson J. ruled that Williams had met all the requirements and allowed the potential jurors to be challenged and questioned. The Crown the applied for a mistrial on the grounds of procedural errors involving unfortunate publicity of the section of the jurors. Williams claimed that the Crown was seeking a new trial to reverse the case ruling, but these claims were refuted by the trial judge who declared that Williams’ claim was unlikely to happen.
During the second trial, Williams filed a motion permitting him to challenge the jurors once again, and this time, his plea was heard y trial judge Esson C.J. The judge acknowledged the evidence that the natives had for a long time been the object of racial bias and prejudice. However, the judge rejected the judge refuted the claims that there was a widespread bias among the jurors since the jurors are expected to be impartial and to avoid any bias of opinions. The presiding judge Vickers J. dismissed the renewed application to challenge the jurors and avoided mentioning to the jury in the opening and closing statements that it should disregard any bias that they might have felt towards Williams for being a native. Finally, the jury convicted Williams. Issues on Appeal
The issue, in this case, was whether racial bias hinders impartiality under criminal law. Williams has the right to challenge the jurors to determine whether they held any prejudice against aboriginals, which might have resulted in an impairment of their impartiality. The judges presiding over the case took into account the partial and indifferent outcomes that may have arose when Williams requested to challenge the jurors. Judge McLachlin J., mainly analyzed the general Canadian approach to jury challenges for the lack of indifference between the Crown and the accused. A juror who was not indifferent or impartial may overlook the evidence and the law basing their verdict on preconception and prejudice. Judge Esson C.J. and the Court of Appeal applied the test of the realistic potential of partiality to see if the potential jurors in any way depicted racial bias towards the aboriginals. The Crown argued that the evidence presented by Williams did not materialize to the realistic potential that would be significant of partiality and prejudice and hence was not sufficient enough to be set aside during trial unless it was sufficiently extreme.
Racial prejudice and bias have significant impacts on the outcomes of a trial. Therefore, an assumption that a judge’s instructions will reduce biases in potential jurors is wrong. As such, creating room for challenges to the jurors would help to determine whether the jurors would be impartial or not. The defense argued that the right to challenge does not need to be extreme. Additionally, they stated that the potential jurors might be unable to set aside their prejudices and perform their duties effectively during the trial. In the court of appeal, Macfarlane J.A. highlighted that the amount of racial bias in the community was not enough a challenge for cause and that there was insufficient evidence of racial prejudice against the aboriginals. To this end, Williams had to provide proof of extreme prejudice and not just a case of general bias against an entire racial group. Racial stereotypes may affect how jurors assess the credulity of the accused in relation to the crime. As such, it is the trial judge’s task to determine the extent to which racial prejudice is spread within the trial, as well as decide when to allow a challenge of the cause. Next, the judge should rule out how any form of prejudice may play a role in the trial since a juror’s bias may be too insignificant to influence the trial by materializing into partiality. However, it is critical for a judge to permit for a challenge in the preliminary stages of the trial to ascertain the impartiality of the jurors and assure both the complainant and the defendant of a fair trial.
Trials may become meaningless and insignificant without the impartiality of the jury. Similarly, a challenge for cause is an essential safeguard for the accused in s.11 (d) Charter, right to fair trial guaranteed by an impartial jury. A challenge for cause is not only significant in ascertaining the impartiality of the jury, but also in ensuring that cases are granted the adequate time that they deserve and that the accused faces a fair trial. In sum, in R. v. Williams, the judge allowed for an appeal due to the partiality and biases of the jury.

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