Lac-Mégantic jurors tell judge they are deadlocked

RELATED TOPICS: CANADA | CRIME | SAFETY | DERAILMENTS/WRECKS
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The burned-out tank cars and downtown of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, in July 2013.
Transportation Safety Board of Canada
SHERBROOKE, Quebec — A 12-person jury in Quebec is at an impasse after six days of deliberation in the Lac-Mégantic criminal trial, the Canadian Press reports. The jury tasked with determining the fate of three railroaders involved with the deadly 2013 Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, oil train wreck and fire, sent a letter to the judge on Tuesday stating that it could not come to a unanimous decision.

“We are at an impasse,” the jurors wrote. “What happens if we can’t arrive at a unanimous decision?”

The judge urged the jury to keep trying to come to a verdict, but noted he can dissolve the jury it appears they cannot come to a final decision. However, he added that dissolving the jury was not something he took lightly, especially after months of testimony and argument.

“Will you please try once again to reach a verdict?” asked Quebec Superior Court Justice Gaétan Dumas. “This is a time for each of you to reflect further on the evidence and to see how, listening to each other carefully and reasoning together, you can come to an agreement.”

Montreal, Maine & Atlantic engineer Thomas Harding, manager Jean Demaître, and dispatcher Richard Labrie have each been charged with 47 counts of criminal negligence causing death following 2013’s fatal oil train wreck.

Government prosecutors argued that the actions of the three men directly led to the derailment and explosion that killed 47 people and leveled more than 30 buildings. Prosecutors presented evidence and testimony for more than two months. When the prosecution rested in December, the defendants announced that they would not be putting forth any evidence or witnesses. The jury was released for the holidays and closing arguments began on Jan. 3.

MM&A train No. 2 rolled downhill into Lac-Mégantic after a fire started on the lead locomotive. A local fire department responded to the fire and shut off the locomotive, causing the air brakes to slowly release. Harding, the engineer, had only applied hand brakes to the five locomotives, a remote control caboose, and a spacer car.
Harding’s attorney argued last week in his closing arguments that MM&A had an insufficient safety culture and that is what led to the runaway train and derailment.
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