Sherbrooke Quebec - Taxpayers are on the hook for more than $300,000 in expenses attributed to jurors in the criminal trial for the Lake Megantic train explosion that killed 47 people.
That number represents only a small percentage of the total costs to the public, however, according to one of the defence lawyers in the case that was heard at the Sherbrooke courthouse, 150 kilometres east of Montreal.
When figuring in jury compensation ($211,989), hotels ($26,746), meals ($26,829), secured transport ($9,569), and translation services for the bilingual trial ($35,698), the final tally sent to the Justice Department was $310,984.
The information was obtained by The Canadian Press through an access to information request and covered only jury-related expenses, excluding costs for the public prosecutors, the judge, and all other court personnel.
Fourteen jurors heard the evidence, while only 12 of them were sequestered and came back with three acquittals in the trial that began 2 Oct 2017 and ended 19 Jan 2018.
Locomotive engineer Thomas Harding, traffic controller Richard Labrie, and manager of train operations Jean Demaitre were each found not guilty of one count of criminal negligence causing the deaths of 47 people.
Defence attorney Charles Shearson, who represented Harding, said the jury expenses are "but a fraction of the total cost," and questioned whether his client should have been charged at all.
The size of the bill didn't surprise Shearson, given the four-month trial and complexity of the proceedings.
What surprised him, he said, were the staffing decisions taken by the Crown.
The prosecution included four, full-time prosecutors, accompanied throughout the trial by two police officers.
"Maybe these resources would have been better invested in rail safety to prevent further accidents," Shearson said.
Shearson said the costs were significant for everyone, including the defendants who had to "defend themselves against Goliath," referring to the imposing Crown team.
He added it was the Crown's decision to opt for a jury trial, and although the accused might have also chosen to be tried by their peers, he said, they didn't get a say.
Quebec Superior Court Justice Gaetan Dumas described the Crown's case as "weak" against two of the accused, during a debate over a motion presented by the defence while jurors were out of the room.
Following the acquittals, Crown prosecutor Veronique Beauchamp declined to comment directly on the judge's comments.
She said criminal negligence is one of the most difficult charges to prove in the Criminal Code.