Accused Calgary murderer to argue he has privacy rights over family members' DNA
A Calgary murder case is delayed mid-trial after a law-changing Supreme Court ruling opened the door for the defence to argue the accused killer has privacy rights over his family members' DNA.
In 2020, Leonard Cochrane, 53, was charged in the cold case murder of Barry Buchart and Trevor Deakins, who were fatally shot in 1994.
The Crown's theory is that Cochrane was one of two masked men who broke into the victims' home on July 11, 1994, to steal drugs or money. The second suspect has never been identified or charged.
Cochrane was arrested and charged 26 years after the killings when police were able to match the accused's DNA to blood found at the crime scene.
Cold case Det. Ken Carrier did that by searching genealogy websites like ancestry.com for partial matches — family members — to the crime scene DNA.
The detective then used genealogists to build a family tree using those family members and other information like social media, census records, obituaries and newspaper archives. Ultimately, Cochrane was identified as a suspect.
Police then covertly obtained a sample of Cochrane's DNA, which came back as a match to the blood left behind at the scene.
Supreme Court decision
Before Cochrane's trial, which got underway two weeks ago, Court of King's Bench Justice Keith Yamauchi dismissed a defence application to argue against the inclusion of the genetic genealogical evidence on the basis that the accused's Charter rights were violated.
But midway through the trial, the Supreme Court released a decision changing the way judges can dismiss applications like Cochrane's.
Before the trial, the onus rested on the defence. Now, the onus is on the Crown, and in order for the application to be dismissed, it has to be found to be "manifestly frivolous."
On Monday, Yamauchi ruled he will hold a voir dire during which defence is permitted to cross-examine Det. Carrier as well as the two investigative genealogists.
Yamauchi will then rule on the issue of whether Cochrane has a reasonable expectation of privacy in other people's DNA.
That hearing is set to take place in June.