ARCHER: The importance of being a jury member

I spent three days this week at the Penticton courthouse sitting in on a coroner’s inquest for the death of a 30-year-old man, Steven Joseph Scott, who died two years ago while in police custody.

I had never been to an inquest before and was happily surprised to find the five-person jury and all the witnesses engaged and cooperative and working together to find answers. The witness list included police officers, cell guards, doctors, social workers, prisoners, and experts. They all provided evidence that led the jury to decide that Scott’s death in a holding cell at the Penticton RCMP detachment was accidental and the result of asphyxiation from alcohol withdrawal.

The jury was given a chance to ask questions and it was clear by their questions they were not just listening, but taking their role seriously. It was up to the jury to determine the cause and time of death, and provide recommendations that could help reduce the risk of such an event happening again.

I had a list of questions in my head, and of course I couldn’t ask them but that was OK because the jury asked most of them for me.

Juries are meant to represent the public, and this inquest jury did just that. Even the presiding coroner Larry Marzinzik took a moment at the end of the inquest to personally thank the jury for their attentiveness over the three-day period and for providing a detailed list of recommendations.

As a member of the community, I want to extend a thank you to the jurors for their hard work and thoroughness during the inquest. They made a lot of recommendations that, if acted upon, could really benefit our community.

So the next time you get jury duty, try and see it as an opportunity to improve your community rather than a week you need to take off work and spend in a courtroom.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Meaghan Archer at or call 250-488-3065. To contact the editor, email or call 250-718-2724.

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