Mistrial declared in Fort-Coulonge murder case
Loss of jurors due to COVID leads to hung jury
Article published on 21 July 2022
last modification on 20 July 2022
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The murder trial of Johan Mitchell Blake MacLennan has encountered a sizable delay, as a mistrial has been declared. MacLennan is accused of first-degree murder in the death of his landlord, 61-year-old Harold Plugowsky.

On September 2, 2020, police were called to a residence on rue Principale in Fort-Coulonge where they discovered Plugowsky with severe head trauma. MacLennan, 37 at the time, was arrested and subsequently charged with first-degree murder after a brief court appearance on Sept. 3. According to reporting by Le Droit, witnesses described a horrific scene as MacLennan apparently beat the victim to death with a baseball bat.

Crown prosecutor for the case Simon Pelletier explained that the trial started on May 19 and had proceeded normally until June 22, though they had lost one jury member by that point, for reasons he didn’t detail. On the 22nd, two other jury members tested positive for COVID. Pelletier said that they had tried to negotiate a slight delay to proceedings to account for the jurors’ five days of isolation, and to re-schedule for later in the summer. However, Pelletier said that the judge decided to send the jurors home, which resulted in a hung jury, as there needs to be a minimum of 10 members.

Pelletier explained that there were two options at that point, proceed with a judge-only trial or go ahead with a mistrial and restart the entire proceedings at a later date. He explained that for serious crimes like murder, juries are required unless there are "exceptional circumstances. They decided that it would be best to proceed with a judge and jury, so the mistrial was declared.

Pelletier said that their next court date will be on July 26. He said that he was hoping that the trial would be re-scheduled as soon as possible, but it would be difficult to predict when it would proceed.

CHIP 101.9 will have more details on this story as they become available.

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