January 11, 2018: Justice Dumas Rejects Motion to Acquit Two Defendants in Lac-Megantic Trail

Quebec Superior Court judge Justice Gaétan Dumas has rejected the defense motion to acquit two out of the three accused former Montreal, Main, and Atlantic railway employees that were involved in the Lac-Mégantic derailment that killed 47 people in 2013. While he admitted that he felt the Crown’s case against those two individuals was not persuasive, he also pointed out that it is not up to him to evaluate the evidence to see if it is strong enough to convict the accused. That job falls to the members of the jury, who are currently in the middle of deliberations.
Throughout the trial, which lasted for three months, the prosecution attempted to show that the supervisors on duty the night of the derailment had not properly done their jobs. The prosecutor, Véronique Beauchamp, said “Their failure to take the appropriate measures to prevent the train from moving was a key cause of the derailment.”
However, the defense attorneys feel that despite the prosecution putting up 31 witnesses during the course of the trial, the Crown had not met the burden of proof for the case against their clients. Gaétan Bourassa, attorney for defendant Jean Demaître, believes that since there was no rule in effect at the time of the derailment that would require engineers to inform their supervisors that the train had been properly secured, his client would have no reason to wonder if a sufficient amount of handbrakes had been set when the fuel train was left idling. Guy Poupart, defense attorney for Richard Labrie, also argued that none of the witnesses that testified said the railway traffic controller should have been informed by the engineer that they were leaving the site where the train was secured.
After reviewing the motion to acquit the two employees Dumas issued a statement saying “It’s not up to the judge to examine the quality of the evidence. It’s the jury’s job to determine if Demaître and Labrie … took steps to avoid bodily harm to other people.”
Prior to the start of the trial, Dumas ruled the TSB’s report on the derailment was inadmissible so the jury never heard the results of the report. The report actually identified 18 causes and factors that played a part in the accident. Some of those factors included gaps in training, employee monitoring and maintenance practices at MMA, Transport Canada’s failure to audit the railway often enough or thoroughly enough, and the fact that the rail line between Nantes and Lac-Megantic is not only the steepest slope in Quebec but the second steepest in Canada.

What the jury in the Lac-Mégantic trial didn’t hear