Calgary courtroom full of prospective jurors for triple murder trial

The Canadian Press
Published on January 11, 2017

Douglas Garland is escorted into a police station in Calgary, Alta., Monday, July 14, 2014. Jury selection is underway for the trial of Garland, accused of killing a boy and his grandparents.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

CALGARY — A huge pool of prospective jurors was called to a Calgary courtroom Wednesday to choose a jury for the trial of a man accused of killing a little boy and his grandparents in 2014.

Douglas Garland, 56, was arrested following the disappearance of Alvin and Kathy Liknes and their five-year-old grandson Nathan O'Brien in June, 2014.

He faces three counts of first-degree murder in a five-week trial that begins Monday.

A total of 472 people were called in order to choose 14 jurors and two alternates.

"I understand this will cause you some inconvenience. It is part of the price we pay for living in a free society," said Justice Robert Hall.

Hall said there are several reasons an individual can be excused from jury duty, including not being old enough, not being a Canadian citizen, working for the police or military or being an elected official.

"Mere inconvenience is not a reason to be exempted from jury duty," he said.

A roll of a barrel was used to determine prospective jurors. The court clerk read out numbers assigned to individuals called to the court. Twenty at a time were sent to a separate courtroom to be asked about what they knew about the case.

Because of the publicity the case has received, lawyers were allowed to ask questions of the potential jurors as is done in American courts.

In the American system, lawyers ask jurors if they have followed the case, try to determine if they have any obvious prejudices, or anything else that might make them unsuitable.

The Crown and defence have to agree whether an individual is an acceptable juror.

Nathan had been sleeping over at his grandparents after they held an estate sale at their Calgary home in advance of a move to Edmonton and then Mexico.

When his mother arrived to pick up Nathan the next morning, no one was home. Police have said there was evidence of a violent encounter in the house, but have not disclosed a motive.

Investigators have combed through several properties surrounding the area near Airdrie, north of Calgary, where Garland lived.

Garland, wearing a blue prison jumpsuit and with his feet shackled, was in court for the selection.

Three days have been set aside to choose the jury.

— Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press