Jury trials to move to Stampede grounds to allow for physical distancing during pandemic

The Big Four Building at the Calgary Stampede grounds, photographed on April 23, 2020.

Before juries hand down their verdicts, judges often warn the courtroom gallery that cheering won’t be tolerated.

But considering where Calgary jury trials will be held this fall, those in attendance, if the public is permitted to watch, may be tempted to let out a “yahoo!”

Because of physical distancing requirements and Alberta Health Service regulations on large gatherings, the Calgary Courts Centre, like all courthouses in the province, isn’t able to accommodate jury trials.

As a result, the Calgary Stampede grounds will be stepping in as the temporary home for Calgary Court of Queen’s Bench jury trials.

An announcement on the court’s website Thursday said trials will be held in the Grandstand building, while jury selections, where hundreds of people are usually required to find 12 citizens to hear a case, will be done in the cavernous Big Four building.

The decision did not draw a big “yahoo!” from high-profile criminal lawyer Jim Lutz, who had earlier suggested moving trials from the courts centre could create a logistical nightmare.

“My sincere hope was we could work within the building we had,” Lutz said.

“I guess we’ll just have to see how it works out.”

Jury summonses have already been issued in Edmonton, where the first jury trial there will commence Sept. 8, at the Bonaventure Gate Writing Centre in that city’s northwest.

Calgary’s first COVID-19 era trial is scheduled to begin Monday, Sept. 28. Jury selections normally occur on the prior Thursday.

A Queen’s Bench spokesperson could not be reached for further comment.

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On Twitter: @KMartinCourts

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