The jurors at the trial of three men charged with criminal negligence causing death in the Lac-Megantic railway disaster completed their first day of deliberations Thursday without reaching a verdict or emerging to ask questions.
Jurors are deliberating the fate of Tom Harding, Richard Labrie and Jean Demaitre, who are charged in connection with the July 2013 tragedy in which 47 people were killed when a runaway train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded.
The three men pleaded not guilty.
Harding was the train's engineer, Labrie the traffic controller and Demaitre the manager of train operations.
All three could be found guilty of criminal negligence causing the death of 47 people, while jurors have the option of convicting Harding on one of two other charges: dangerous operation of railway equipment or dangerous operation of railway equipment causing death.
Quebec Superior Court Justice Gaetan Dumas rejected two requests during the trial – one from the defence and another from the Crown – details of which were kept from the jury.
Now that the 12 jurors are sequestered until they reach a verdict, the two requests can be made public.
The first came from the Crown, which asked to have entered into evidence a letter of suspension given to Harding in 2008 after he failed to properly secure a train, according to Dumas' ruling.
Dumas ruled that the prejudicial effect of the letter on jurors would have been greater than its value as evidence.
The second request came from Harding, who wanted the court to enter into evidence declarations from witnesses who were interviewed by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada in connection with the derailment.
Dumas ruled the witness statements were not admissible because they were based on hearsay.
Thomas Walsh, one of Harding's lawyers, told reporters Thursday the trial should never even have taken place.
He said the evidence didn't justify a criminal negligence charge and his client was targeted because of public pressure to blame someone for the tragedy.
Harding is both "very anxious and very serene," Walsh said.
"I wouldn't say he's confident or he's not confident. I think he'll be very relieved when it's over, one way or another, because it's been a very difficult five years."
Walsh said the Crown's own witnesses demonstrated that Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway, which owned the train that derailed, didn't provide its employees with enough resources to maintain proper safety on its rail network.
Harding's legal team maintains their client's actions were not a marked departure from the behaviour of a reasonable person in similar circumstances and did not reveal a reckless disregard for the lives of others.
The Crown contends Harding failed to perform a proper brake test and didn't apply enough handbrakes after he parked the 73-wagon convoy late on the night of July 5, 2013.
Labrie and Demaitre are accused of failing to ask enough questions to ensure the train was properly secure after a fire broke out on the locomotive and firefighters shut off its engine, compromising the braking system.
The trial began Oct. 2.