Advocate leading mental illness support program in Pictou County
Sherry Blinkhorn would like to see a time when talking about mental illness becomes just like talking about the weather.
PICTOU – Seven women and six men have been selected to hear evidence in the murder trial of Christopher Alexander Falconer.
The 31-year-old county man is charged with the kidnapping and first-degree murder of 19-year-old Amber Kirwan between Oct. 9 and Nov. 5, 2011.
Falconer stood on the stage of the deCoste Centre and entered a not guilty plea early on in the proceedings. He sat quietly on the stage for the morning proceedings after arriving at the Pictou Justice Centre around 9 a.m. in sheriff's custody.
Kirwan was reported missing on Oct. 9, 2011, after leaving friends at a downtown New Glasgow pool hall. Her remains were found in Heathbell about a month later. The missing person case and homicide investigation garnered national media attention and resulted in the victim being named "Pictou County's angel."
Jury selection began at 9:30 a.m. at the deCoste Centre, which was made into a makeshift courthouse to accommodate the larger than normal size jury pool.
Four hundred jury summonses went out, but only about 200 people actually showed up Monday due to exemptions granted before the selection took place. Thirty people without exemptions failed to show up for jury selection.
The morning's proceedings saw court staff and Justice Nick Scaravelli granting numerous general exemptions to people based on work conflict or health concerns while more specific exemptions were held later in the day.
When 13 jurors were selected, there were only 22 people left in the auditorium of the deCoste Centre. Only 12 jurors will be able to deliberate so when it comes time for the jury to discuss the evidence, one person will be randomly chosen to sit out of the deliberations. An extra juror was chosen during the selection in case someone had to be excused during the trial.
A total of 42 witnesses have been subpoenaed by the Crown to testify including Donnie and Marjorie Kirwan, who are Amber's parents, as well as Mason Campbell, her boyfriend. Friends who were involved in the search for KIrwan are also being called by the Crown as well as slew of RCMP and police investigators and specialists.
"It is important for people to hear from Marjorie and Donald Kirwan because Amber Kirwan isn't here to speak for herself," said Crown attorney Bill Gorman.
Gorman said there is a large amount of forensic evidence to be heard at the trial.
Following jury selection at the deCoste Centre, Justice Scaravelli resumed the proceedings in Supreme Court at 5 p.m to give the jury their instructions for the trial, which is expected to last a month.
The Crown expects to get through eight or nine witnesses on Tuesday, some of whom could be Kirwan's parents and friends.