The Powell River sexual interference trial of the son of a former BC Liberal MLA paused Oct. 6 when two jurors were sent home for disobeying the judge’s instructions.
The case will continue Oct. 10 with 10 jurors.
Kasimir Tyabji-Sandana, 35, was scheduled to continue testifying in his own defence before B.C. Supreme Court Justice Peter Edelmann and the jury. The son of former Okanagan East MLA Judi Tyabji is accused of committing sexual interference of a person under 16 and invitation to sexual touching of a person under 16 during the second half of 2016.
The two jurors, whose names were not disclosed, conducted what Edelmann described as “independent research” about the case.
“One of the pieces of information that was shared to some of you was that a Canada-wide warrant was issued for Mr. Tyabji-Sandana,” Edelmann said after the jury was recalled at 3:49 p.m. “This is a good illustration of the dangers of information being presented outside the courtroom and its potential for misuse.”
Edelmann called the issuance of a warrant and laying of charges routine and not unusual for such a warrant to be executed in another province. Tyabji-Sandana was the subject of a Canada-wide warrant for his arrest in 2020.
“While it might make for an interesting headline, to an informed observer, the information about the issuance of a warrant adds nothing to the information about the laying of the charges,” he said.
Edelmann proceeded to tell the remaining 10 members of the jury that their duty is to decide whether Tyabji-Sandana is guilty or not of the charges before the court. That there is a charge is not evidence, nor is it a relevant factor to consider when they decide the outcome.
“All persons charged with an offense are presumed to be innocent under our law. This means that they do not have to prove their innocence,” the judge said. “In my final instructions, I will remind you that you should disregard anything you have read or heard in the media or any other source outside the courtroom in coming to your decision in this case.”
Edelmann reminded the jury to not use the Internet or any electronic device about the trial in any way, not talk about the case with any friends or relatives, and not communicate with anyone involved in the case.
“You may, of course, give a polite greeting to somebody you see around the courthouse, but do not talk about the case with anyone except your fellow jurors.”
Edelmann reiterated that he is the sole judge of the law in the trial and that they are the judges of the facts.
“Therefore, it is important that you accept the law from me without question. You must not use your own ideas about what the law is.”
On Oct. 5, Tyabji-Sandana testified that he did not know the girl he had sex with in September 2016 was 15-years-old, because he was under the belief that she had turned 16 earlier in the year. The alleged victim had testified Wednesday that she told Tyabji-Sandana she was 15 when they kissed for the first time.
Tyabji-Sandana originally met her in January 2016 when she volunteered to work on the farm co-owned by Tyabji and then-husband Gordon Wilson, the former Powell River-Sunshine Coast MLA who led the BC Liberal Party from 1987 to 1993.
Tyabji testified that she did not ask the girl for her age, but assumed she was in senior high school because she had arrived with forms to gain volunteer work credits toward graduation.
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