Jurors instructed prior to beginning of Via terror plot trial
From left, Chiheb Esseghaeir and Raed Jaser listen as Justice Michael Code instructs the jury in University Ave. court Jan. 29, 2015. (Sketch by Pam Davies)
Jurors at the terror case against two men accused of plotting to derail a Via train were given their first legal instructions Friday.
Fourteen jurors were chosen to hear the case against Chiheb Esseghaier and Raed Jaser, who allegedly plotted to sabotage a train travelling between Toronto and New York in 2012.
Justice Michael Code said only 12 jurors chosen randomly out of the 14 will render a verdict on the two men after hearing all of the evidence, legal arguments and the judge's final instructions.
Two jurors will be eliminated by a random method at the end of the trial, said Code. The new provision is designed to prevent mistrials due to the unforeseen attrition of jury members over the course of the trial.
Code warned the jurors to decide this case solely on the evidence heard and seen in court.
"You are the judges of the facts," explained Code. "But you are not lawyers and you are not investigators."
A juror researching on the Internet "could potentially cause a mistrial," warned Code.
The jury system has served the justice system extremely well, he added.
"This is the great strength of our justice system," he said of the jury system where 12 citizens with all their collective wisdom, experience and common sense weigh the evidence. "It's as good as it gets."
Esseghaier, 31, and Jaser, 37, were arraigned on terror charges Friday as the Crown prepares to open its case on Monday.
Esseghaier refused to enter a plea and Code entered a not-guilty plea on his behalf.
Markham resident Jaser pleaded "not guilty" to his terror-related charges that involve an alleged plot between Aug. 26 and Sept. 25, 2012.
Esseghaier is charged with a fifth count that alleges his terror activity stretched from Sept. 25, 2012, to Feb. 14, 2013.
Jaser, a North York van driver, and Esseghaier are also charged with participating in a terrorist group and conspiring to murder for the benefit of a terrorist group.