Legal Case Brief

Legal Case Brief

R. v. Williams, [1998] 1 S.C.R. 1128

Victor Daniel Williams ( Appellant) v. Her Majesty The Queen (Respondent)

Supreme Court of Canada, hearing an appeal from the Court of Appeal for British Columbia.
Criminal law - Trial -Procedure -Challenge for cause - Racial bias.
Appeal by accused of lower courts' decision regarding whether prospective jurors can be questioned as to racial bias- Criminal Code. R.S.C., 1985, c. C-46, ss. 638, 649 - Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, ss. 7, 11(d), 15(1).


Victor Daniel Williams, an aboriginal, was charged with the robbery of a Victoria pizza parlour. Mr. Williams pleaded not guilty and chose to have a trial by judge and jury. During his first trial, Mr. Williams requested permission to challenge for cause and question potential jurors to determine if they possessed prejudice against aboriginals which might impair their partiality. Hutchison J. granted Mr. Williams his request. The Crown successfully applied for a mistrial on the basis of procedural errors including the “ unfortunate publicity” of juror selection.

Mr. Williams filed a motion for an order permitting him to challenge for cause. Esson C. J. heard the motion. He recognized that there is a widespread prejudice against aboriginals in the community. Esson C. J., however, rejected that widespread prejudice in the community was sufficient to support a challenge for cause and dismissed the motion. At the trial, Vickers J. dismissed Mr. William's renewed application to challenge potential jurors for cause and the jury convicted Mr. Williams. He appealed to the Court of Appeal on the issue of challenge for cause.

At the Court of Appeal, Macfarlane J.A., agreed with Esson C.J.'s findings that there needs to be stronger evidence than general bias in the community to discharge the presumption of jury impartiality. The appeal was dismissed and the conviction was upheld.

Issues on appeal

The issue on this appeal is whether Mr. Williams...

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