7 more inmates on trial for beating at Burnside jail

·3 min read
A still image from a video taken at the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility in Dartmouth, N.S., showing inmates and guards during an assault of a prisoner in one of the cells. (Nova Scotia court exhibit - image credit)
A still image from a video taken at the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility in Dartmouth, N.S., showing inmates and guards during an assault of a prisoner in one of the cells. (Nova Scotia court exhibit - image credit)

The trial of seven men accused of severely beating a man at the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility in Dartmouth got underway Wednesday, but one of the key people in the case was not there.

Kaz Cox, Austin Mitton, Kevin Clarke-McNeil, Andriko Crawley, Robert Fraser, Matthew Coaker and Geevan Nagendran are all facing charges including conspiracy to commit murder, attempted murder and aggravated assault.

A total of 15 men are accused of attacking an inmate at the facility, which is better known as the Burnside jail, in December 2019.

Six of the accused were tried in September. Justice Jamie Campbell is the judge for both trials and will deliver verdicts for both later this month.

The current trial is scheduled to run for six consecutive days, including Saturday and Sunday.

BJ Marriott asks for delay

Brian James (BJ) Marriott was supposed to be part of this trial as well.

But his lawyer, Nathan Gorham, appeared before the judge by telephone on Tuesday to ask that Marriott's charges be severed from the others.

Campbell was reluctant to grant the request, especially as it came the day before the trial was to start.

"This matter of a severance is of grave concern to me," Campbell said.

"I understand the circumstances that you're in, but I'm quite concerned that tomorrow, when the trial begins, someone else will pop up and say, 'Me too.'"

That didn't happen; none of the seven other accused raised any objections as their trial began.

Gorham told the judge that he is currently tied up in a murder trial in Toronto that is running far longer than expected and that prevented him from being in Halifax for this case.

"We certainly didn't mean to be disrespectful to the court," Gorham said over the phone. "I hoped it wouldn't come to this."

The lawyer told the judge there's a chance the case against Marriott could be resolved without a trial as guilty pleas to some of the charges could be entered.

Gorham said the only reason the pleas haven't been entered to this point is because the Crown has indicated that if Marriott is convicted, they will try to have him declared a dangerous offender. Gorham said he needs to discuss that with Marriott in person before they make their next move.

A fifteenth accused, Sophon Sec, is also being dealt with separately.

Doctor says wounds could have killed victim

An emergency room doctor, Dr. Michael Biddulph, was the first Crown witness to testify. He was part of the trauma team who treated the victim, Steven Anderson, when he was brought to hospital from the jail.

He described multiple stab wounds, including one that caused a build up of air inside the chest cavity. The doctor said that, left untreated, that wound could have proved fatal. He described most of the other injuries as superficial.

Because of the large number of accused, special arrangements have been made to accommodate the trial.

The first trial with six accused was held in a specially-created courtroom in the Nova Centre in downtown Halifax. The cavernous room allowed each defence counsel to sit with their client at a table, and each table was separated by two metres on each side to accommodate COVID-19 restrictions.

This second trial has been moved back into the Law Courts on the Halifax waterfront. One of the largest courtrooms in that building has been adapted to handle all the accused. Their lawyers sit at three rows of tables at the front of the courtroom.

The two Crown prosecutors are seated in what is normally the jury box. Half of the public gallery has been blocked off and surrounded by sheriff's deputies. The seven defendants are seated on three benches in that section of the courtroom.

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