Jury picked for man accused in RCMP murder

Salomonie Jaw on trial for Cape Dorset shooting in 2001



CAPE DORSET – Salomonie Jaw remained quiet and composed this week in Cape Dorset’s community hall as old neighbours answered questions to determine their fitness to serve on a jury for Jaw’s trial in the murder of an RCMP officer.

Sitting at a table with his lawyer and a legal assistant, the 49-year-old man hunched forward with his back to a full house as court officials sifted through hundreds of potential jurors in search of 12 to oversee his trial.

Jaw faces a charge of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Const. Jurgen Seewald on March 5, 2001.

Jury selection began Jan. 27. Potential jury members arrived around 9:30 a.m. by foot, skidoo and truck. The judge, Crown and defence lawyers spent the next five hours combing through 300 potential jurors – about a quarter of Cape Dorset’s population – before picking eight men and six women, all Inuit, to return Jan. 30 to begin hearing evidence.

Before adjourning, Justice John Vertes reminded the 12-member jury, and two back-up members, that they were to base their verdict on what they heard and saw in court, not on what they heard on the radio or from people in the street.

“The oath that you took means you are judges in this case,” Vertez said, followed by an Inuktitut translation.

Almost three years have past since the killing of Seewald, a long-time RCMP officer from Nova Scotia, threw Cape Dorset into the national spotlight. Seewald was responding to a call about a domestic dispute at a Northern store staff house when he was shot.

Seewald’s partner brought him to the nurse’s station, where he died shortly after.

Jaw, the man accused of firing the gun, fled the scene and was at large for several hours. When an RCMP containment unit arrived from Iqaluit, they found Jaw had barricaded himself inside his home. After a 10-hour stand-off, he gave himself up without incident.

At his first public appearance in Cape Dorset since the shooting, Jaw appeared as most residents would remember him. His long, black hair tied in a ponytail, Jaw smiled several times during breaks in proceedings. He wore kamiks, a white T-shirt with an Inuksuk logo, and blue jeans.

If convicted of first-degree murder, Jaw will spend a minimum of 25 years in prison without parole. Since the shooting, Jaw has stayed at the Baffin Correctional Centre in Iqaluit.

Justice Vertes told the court he expected the trial would take between two and three weeks.

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