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Shoppers at a Winnipeg mall were surprised to be personally recruited for jury duty.

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The lives of 12 Winnipeg shoppers were turned upside down when they were told to drop what they were doing and sit as potential jurors in a sexual-assault trial.

The twelve were in a downtown mall around noon Monday when sheriff's officers served them with a rarely-issued court order from a judge who had suddenly found himself a juror short in the nine-day trial.

Earlier Monday, Justice Gerald Chartier had to dismiss that person along with two alternates for personal reasons, leaving only 11 jurors.

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Sheriff's officers quickly rounded up a pool of potential replacements and within minutes, a man in the group was selected to fill the empty seat in the jury box.

Court officials say they can only remember three times in the past 25 years when jurors had to be rounded up in such a fashion.

University of Manitoba law Prof. David Asper calls the judge's order odd, but says the Criminal Code gives courts the authority to get jurors when every other effort has failed.

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