In charging juries, trial judges are obliged to review the substantial parts of the evidence and relate that evidence to the issues the jurors must decide.
In R. v. Walker, 2019 ONCA 806, the trial judge offended this rule by offering an opinion on a critical piece of evidence that was stronger than the position the Crown had been prepared to advance: the Crown had conceded that a gun was not clearly identifiable in security video footage, while the trial judge opined to the jury that a gun was identifiable in the video. The Crown withdrew its concession and in closing took a position with respect to the gun that aligned with the judge’s. The Court of Appeal for Ontario held that the trial judge’s comment rendered the trial unfair, as it had profoundly impacted the course of argument on a critical piece of evidence.
Stuart O’Connell, O’Connell Law Group (All rights reserved to author).