NEWS
01/10/2018 10:38 EST | Updated 01/10/2018 11:02 EST

Deliberate on 3 Lac-Megantic accused without regard to public opinion: judge

SHERBROOKE, Que. — The three men accused in the Lac-Megantic railway disaster must be judged without sympathy or prejudice and without consideration of public opinion, Quebec Superior Court Justice Gaetan Dumas told jurors Wednesday in his final instructions.

Dumas began speaking to the 14 jurors around 11 a.m., one day after defence lawyers for the accused wrapped up their closing arguments.

When he is done, 12 of the jurors will be sequestered to deliberate the fate of the former railway employees.

"You must consider the evidence and make your decision without sympathy, prejudice or fear," Dumas told the jury. "You must not be influenced by public opinion."

Tom Harding, Richard Labrie and Jean Demaitre are charged with criminal negligence in the disaster that killed 47 people in July 2013 when a runaway train carrying crude derailed in Lac-Megantic and exploded.

They have pleaded not guilty.

Harding was the train's engineer, Labrie the traffic controller and Demaitre the manager of train operations.

Dumas said the jury is charged with rendering three separate, unanimous verdicts based solely on evidence heard in the courtroom.

The trial judge added that neither the now-bankrupt company that owned the derailed train, Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway, nor its administrators were on trial.

The trial involved only the three employees accused of being individually and independently criminally negligent from July 4 to 6, 2013, he said.