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Two NS police officers guilty of criminal negligence in the death of an intoxicated detainee

Michael Tutton, Canadian Press

Posted on Sunday November 10, 2019 at 14:38 EST

Last updated on Sunday, November 10, 2019 5:38 PM EST

HALIFAX – Two Special Constables of the Halifax Police have been convicted of criminal negligence causing the death of an impaired inmate who suffocated in his cell after being allowed to clear the spit cap.

Daniel Fraser and Cheryl Gardner were charged with the offense in 2017 by the Serious Incident Response Team – the province's police oversight body – following the death of Corey Rogers on June 16, 2016.

The victim's mother, Jeannette Rogers, sounded a loud bang in the Nova Scotia Supreme Court when the verdict was read, as the family and friends of the accused quietly sobbed in the back row.

The verdict came after a tense wait while the jury deliberated for nearly 16 hours over three days.

"I am so relieved," said the mother in court. "It was long and hard, but it was worth it. "

Rogers became a public critic of the care provided in the solitary confinement cells and asked for additional disciplinary action against three police officers who drove Rogers to the confinement cell and left him lying on the floor, the hood covered in the face.

A medical examiner determined that Rogers died of suffocation while he was lying in a narrow cell, the cap of the spit covering his mouth while he seemed to be vomiting.

"I know that Corey is watching over me and saying," Thanks mom, "says the retired psychiatric nurse. She wore a collar containing a small vial containing some of her son's ashes, locked in a fairy-shaped pendant.

Defense lawyers and supporters of the accused left the court without comment shortly after Justice Kevin Coady set a sentencing hearing on Feb. 14.

Attorney Chris Vanderhooft stated that Fraser and Gardner had failed in their duty to care for Rogers, who was very intoxicated when he was taken to the Halifax Police Station late on the night of June 15, 2016.

The jury showed the Rogers video, 41, panting in a cell while wearing the spit hood. The mask prevents prisoners from spitting on the guards, but is also accompanied by instructions warning not to leave him on a heavily intoxicated person who might vomit.

The court heard that a few hours before his death, Rogers was arrested in front of a children's hospital in Halifax where his wife had given birth to their child the day before.

It was proven that he had been extremely weakened after quickly drank half a bottle of whiskey and that the police had seen him drink alcohol.

Officers who made the arrest testified that they had put the hood on Rogers' face after he spat in the police car while he was going to the station. from police.

Vanderhooft, a Manitoba prosecutor involved in this case, alleged that Rogers was dead because the paramedics had not been called and that the inmate had been left alone, intoxicated, face-down in a cell with the cap in place.

He also argued that the gendarmes did not follow provincial instructions for the verification of detainees introduced in 2012 following the death of Victoria Paul.

In 2009, Paul – an Aboriginal woman from Indian Brook, NS – victim of a home attack in a police cell in Truro, NS, who died two weeks later at the hospital, she died at the hospital. Hospital, which prompted to call for reforms of the blocking procedures and an independent investigation.

The new provincial reactivity control standards – posted on the wall of the Halifax Police Cells entrance area – invited those involved in these operations to enter the cells of the impaired inmates and the police. shake gently to ensure awareness.

The defense counsel for the accused focused on the legal definition of criminal negligence causing death, which requires the accused to demonstrate "total or reckless disregard" for life. and the safety of others.

Legal precedents have also been established, which call on jurors to decide whether the actions of the accused constituted a "marked" departure from what a reasonably prudent person would do under the circumstances.

Fraser defense attorney David Bright presented evidence that special police officers entered the cells or touched the prisoners to see if they were aware.

"This was not, in my humble opinion, a criminal negligence." There was no marked departure from the basic situation, Bright had said.

Special constables are employed by the police department and are appointed to specialized duties as peace officers, including the consignment of prisoners, but they are not considered police officers.

Both agents testified for their own defense.

Fraser stated that a superior had told him that the obligation to gather the inmates only applied in "high-risk" cases and that he did not consider that Rogers was a such case.

Gardner testified that she did not notice anything unusual about the prisoner when she checked on him in his cell.

However, the prosecution has video evidence showed the last time Rogers was moved between 23:38 and 23:41 on June 15, but two hours later, Fraser called Rogers and finally decided to enter the cell and to remove the hood.

"Unfortunately, it was too late," said Vanderhooft. "Corey had been vomiting for a long time and could not clear his own airways because the rotisserie hood was covering his mouth."

The range of criminal negligence sentences resulting in death is wide, ranging from jail time to life imprisonment, Vanderhooft said outside the court.

He told reporters that it was too early to say what sentence the Crown would ask, but added that it would not be acting the maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

An e-mail comment from the Halifax police indicates that the ministry will review the court's decision and "determine the next steps", thus refusing any comment.

This report from The Canadian Press was published on November 10, 2019

This report from the Canadian Press was published on November 10, 2019.

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