A man accused of a dismemberment killing has lost a unique legal challenge of Manitoba’s jury system in which he claimed the right to be tried by a jury composed mostly of natives like himself.
Queen’s Bench Chief Justice Marc Monnin handed down a decision Wednesday, ruling Sydney Teerhuis’ rights are not being violated by the current system.
Teerhuis, 35, argued last fall the jury selection process doesn’t allow for a true representation of the public to hear a criminal case and is a violation of his charter rights.
Teerhuis is accused of dismembering, beheading and castrating Robin Greene, 38, inside a Winnipeg hotel in the summer of 2003. Police were led to the body after a man walked into the Public Safety Building and allegedly confessed.
Investigators initially believed they were responding to a prank call and were stunned to find the victim inside the bathtub of a hotel suite on July 2, 2003 — cut into eight pieces.
Police have been unable to locate some internal organs — including the heart and intestines — and their disposition remains a disturbing mystery.
Police also recovered inside the suite a necklace that had been stolen one day earlier from the set of the Hollywood movie, Shall We Dance?, starring Jennifer Lopez, Susan Sarandon and Richard Gere.
The movie was being filmed in Winnipeg. The $4,000 necklace belonged to Sarandon but played no role in the killing in terms of motive, according to police.
The celebrity link to the gruesome case sparked interest in the United States from gossip magazines, tabloid newspapers and entertainment talk shows.
Greene and his alleged killer weren’t known to each other, but apparently met just prior to the homicide and agreed to return to the hotel for consensual sex.
One of Teerhuis’ main arguments about the jury process was that aboriginals are unfairly barred from jury duty because of a rule that states jurors can’t have criminal records.
Teerhuis cited statistics that show 61 per cent of people in prison are native.
Defence lawyer Greg Brodsky claimed justice officials have created a system where the only people selected for jury duty are “the elderly and the unemployed.”
Jury co-ordinator Gail Hildebrand told court that about 1,600 jury notices were sent out in anticipation of the Teerhuis trial, which was set to begin last September.
She said the list of names was randomly generated through provincial health records and she didn’t know how many people on it were native.
Crown attorney Deborah Carlson said there is no evidence anything improper occurred when dismissing prospective jurors.