Jurors in Coutts blockade public mischief trial will hear final arguments next week

Coutts trial coming to close

The Crown and defence lawyers have wrapped up their cases in the trial of three men accused of orchestrating the border shutdown at Coutts, Alta., in early 2022.

The prosecution called just a handful of witnesses during the trial, including former Coutts mayor Jim Willett and RCMP officers, and told the jury Friday it had decided against calling one additional witness.

"I can also advise you sir that with that decision having been made, that the Crown will be closing its case," said Crown prosecutor Steven Johnston.

The defence elected not to call any evidence at all.

Alex Van Herk, Marco Van Huigenbos, and Gerhard Janzen have pleaded not guilty to a charge of mischief over $5,000.

The Crown has presented evidence it says proves the trio spearheaded the protest that tied up cross-border traffic between Alberta and Montana for two weeks in early 2022 in a protest of COVID-era rules and restrictions.

It stressed the case is not about COVID-19 or free speech but simply that people cannot decide on their own to shut down a major transportation portal.

The defence has argued that the protest group was a mishmash of competing interests to the point it wasn't clear who was calling the shots.

Alberta Court of King's Bench Justice Keith Yamauchi dismissed the jury until Tuesday.

"We have some administrative matters with which we must deal before we provide you with statements from the Crown, statements from the defence, and so what I'm doing is I'm going to allow you to leave now and require you to be back here Tuesday morning," Yamauchi said.

"I'm giving you a long weekend."

Once the judge gives a charge, or instructions to the jury, the members will begin deliberating the three men's guilt or innocence.

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