Closing arguments wrap up in case of Halifax jail death

After receiving final instructions from Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Kevin Coady, the jury in the criminal negligence trial of two Halifax Regional Police special constables is expected to begin deliberations Friday.

The jury has heard nearly two weeks of evidence and arguments in the case of Dan Fraser and Cheryl Gardner, who were charged after Corey Rogers, 41, was found dead in a holding cell at police headquarters early on the morning of June 16, 2016.

Rogers had been arrested for public intoxication the night before and brought to cells to sleep it off.

The Crown prosecutor in the case, Chris Vanderhooft, said everyone who dealt with Rogers that night treated him horribly, including the three patrol officers who arrested him.

The jury was shown video of those officers when they brought Rogers to the police station. They carried him into the building and placed him on the floor. The officers testified that Rogers refused to walk and they felt he was playing possum.

Rogers 'was drunk and needed care,' says Crown

"Corey Rogers was not playing possum," Vanderhooft told the jury Thursday in his closing arguments.

"He was drunk and needed care."

Vanderhooft reminded jurors of testimony from the medical examiner who said Rogers had four times the legal limit of alcohol in his system that night. He said knowing that, Fraser and Gardner should have kept a closer eye on Rogers.

Crown says officers entered fake log entries

After he was searched, the arresting officers dragged him into a cell where they left him face down on the floor. When he was checked hours later, he had vomited into a spit hood that officers had placed over his face, and asphyxiated.

Vanderhooft pointed to the security video and logbooks from that night, which he said showed the two officers failed to perform the sort of cell checks they were required to do by policy.

He said they entered some checks in the log that were never performed. Vanderhooft said the last couple of checks allegedly performed were too late because by that point, Rogers was already dead.

In his closing arguments, Ron Pizzo, Gardner's lawyer, said his client did the best she could under the circumstances. Pizzo reminded the jury that booking officers only received two weeks of training and none of that dealt with spit hoods.

He said they never had occasion to use the hoods and so never read the instructions, which included warnings of possible death or serious injury if a prisoner was left unattended.

Pizzo said Gardner's conduct that night was not a marked departure from acceptable norms, which is a standard the Crown would have to meet to get a conviction for criminal negligence.

'It is unfair that Dan Fraser is put in this position,' says lawyer

Dan Fraser's lawyer, David Bright, said his client did the same thing as all other booking officers when it came to checking on prisoners.

He said Fraser and Gardner had experience dealing with Rogers, knew he was an alcoholic and that knowledge would have informed how they dealt with him that night.

Bright said managers can't simply insist that booking officers follow a policy when the officers have said they lack the resources to do so.

"There was a dramatic breakdown in the chain of command here and it is unfair that Dan Fraser is put in this position," Bright told the jury.