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Juror dismissed for falling asleep during testimony at Coutts murder-conspiracy trial

A truck convoy of anti-COVID-19 vaccine mandate demonstrators block the highway at the busy U.S. border crossing in Coutts, Alta., Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh) A truck convoy of anti-COVID-19 vaccine mandate demonstrators block the highway at the busy U.S. border crossing in Coutts, Alta., Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh)
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One of the jurors hearing evidence in the murder-conspiracy trial surrounding the border blockade at Coutts, Alta., has been dismissed for falling asleep in the courtroom.

Court of King’s Bench Justice David Labrenz told jurors Friday he became aware the female juror was nodding off during testimony in the trial of Anthony Olienick and Chris Carbert.

"The juror had difficulty remaining awake and had been observed on several occasions to have been dozing during the evidence," he told the panel.

"Each of you need to hear the evidence and be in a position later to discuss the evidence and your impressions of the evidence with your fellow jurors when you're deliberating."

Labrenz told the jurors to let him know if they ever need a break to walk, stretch or get a snack.

"At times listening to evidence can be quite tiring. Sometimes it's not like a scripted television show," he said.

The 14-member jury -- five men and nine women – is now down to 13.

They have been hearing evidence for a month in Lethbridge, Alta.

When they retire to consider a verdict, one of them will be excused to bring the final number of deliberators to 12.

Two additional jurors were excused before the trial even began, including one who told court her sister’s boyfriend was a cellmate of one of the accused.

Olienick and Carbert were arrested in early 2022 after participating in a blockade to protest COVID-19 restrictions and vaccine mandates at the busy Canada-U.S. border crossing at Coutts. The roadblock stymied traffic for two weeks.

It ended peacefully and quickly after police made arrests and seized weapons and body armour near the protest site. More weapons, ammunition and two pipe bombs were later found at Olienick's home.

An RCMP forensics expert testified Friday that the powder inside the pipes was explosive.

So far, the jurors have heard the Crown making its case.

It has presented text messages from the accused as evidence, along with weapon seizures and testimony from undercover officers.

The officers, posing as volunteers at the blockade, told court that Olienick said he believed Mounties were the tools of “devil” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and deserved to be hanged. The officers testified that Olienick said if police raided the blockade, he would “slit their throats.”

In a police interrogation video shown to the jury, Olienick denied targeting police but said he feared an invasion by United Nations troops or Chinese communists.

He characterized himself and others as “sheepdogs” protecting “the flock” from tyrannical invaders.

The jurors have also been shown text messages from both accused.

In one, Carbert warns his mother of war and says he is prepared to die, telling her, "The sooner you wake up to what's happening the sooner you'll understand why I have to do what I have to do."

Olienick, in a series of messages, characterizes the blockade as an apocalyptic last stand against a satanic government.

In one text, Olienick says he may not make it out alive, telling a friend, “If I die, feed my cat and take my guns."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 5, 2024.

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