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Chartier on Trial

April 1, 2006 permalink

Marie-Emilie Chartier successfully escaped from Canada with her children in March 2005, but made the mistake of fleeing to the country with the world's most oppressive social services system, Sweden. She and her children were forcibly returned to Canada and she is now on trial for the "crime" of caring for her own children. One of our earlier posts on the incident includes a commentary by John Dunn. The article below describes developments in her legal case.



Jury dismissed after objections to its racial mix

A Superior Court judge yesterday dismissed a jury after a woman accused of abducting her children complained that the jurors don't reflect the racial mix of Canadian society.

"I do not wish to go ahead with the trial at this point in time," said Marie-Emilie Chartier, 36.

She told Justice Charles Hackland she was dismissing her lawyer because he and the Crown prosecutor "have forgotten the jury (members) are not representative of the Canadian community.

"I, being a black woman, am not represented."

Ms. Chartier, who does not have legal custody of her four children, has pleaded not guilty to four charges of child abduction after taking the children to Sweden last year, despite not having legal custody of them.

Judge Hackland acknowledged Ms. Chartier's concerns and dismissed the jury, saying their services were no longer needed after having heard a week's worth of testimony.

"Members of the jury, there have been some developments that have come in the last day. The accused has decided to discharge her lawyer. The trial cannot continue before you. Regrettably, this is concluded. You are discharged. Thank you."

"I don't think the accused can handle her own defence and she has said she does not want to," Judge Hackland said after Ms. Chartier informed the court she no longer wanted Bruce Engel as her lawyer.

At one point, when Ms. Chartier expressed her frustration with the court proceedings and said she was going to walk out of the courtroom, the judge said he would "have her arrested."

The judge also agreed to adjourn the case until Monday, by which time Ms. Chartier's new lawyer will have had a chance to read the transcripts from this week's proceedings.

Ms. Chartier is accused of breaching provisions of a custody order and four counts of falsifying passport documents. She sparked several Canada-wide warrants and international police alerts in March 2005 when she took the children to Sweden. She surrendered to Swedish authorities in early May. She and her children returned the following week.

Back in Canada, she was released on bail and required, among other restrictions, not to contact her children, who are under the legal guardianship of their grandmother, who lives in Ottawa. Ms. Chartier only has restricted access to the children.

On Monday, Judge Hackland will learn whether the new lawyer wants to proceed immediately with a judge-only trial or requires a two- or three-week adjournment.

The judge could also declare a mistrial, which would require a new trial and, possibly, having to select another jury.

Mr. Engel, Ms. Chartier's current lawyer, said it will be confirmed on Monday whether he is officially dismissed, or if she has retained a new lawyer.

"It is too bad because I would like to continue to represent her," he said after the adjournment. "I find this case very interesting."

While Ms. Chartier described her relationship with Mr. Engel as a "conflict of interest," Mr. Engel told Judge Hackland he sees it more as a "breakdown of client-solicitor relationship."

Crown prosecutor Mark Holmes described Ms. Chartier's request for a new trial as a "ploy" and that the same issue will possibly arise if there is a mistrial and another jury is chosen.

"One gets the sense this will not go away with another jury, when the jury is not representative of what she would like," said Mr. Holmes.

Source: Ottawa Citizen