ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — Ten correctional officers cleared by a provincial court judge in the death of an inmate are suing the provincial government, alleging a botched investigation and unfounded charges.
The statement of claim filed July 15 in provincial Supreme Court says the guards have suffered pain, anguish and mental health issues as a result of the charges.
It also claims they feel a “sense of betrayal from having been subjected to malicious prosecution, negligent investigation, negligence and defamation, and loss of reputation.”
Jonathan Henoche was 33 when he died at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary in St. John’s, N.L., on Nov. 6, 2019. His death was ruled a homicide and 10 correctional officers were charged with his death in December of 2020. Seven were accused of criminal negligence causing death, and three were accused of manslaughter. One officer also faced a charge of failure to provide necessaries of life.
About a year later, provincial court Chief Judge Pamela Goulding dismissed all but one of those charges. Her written decision following a preliminary inquiry lambasted the Crown attorneys for failing to provide either expert witnesses or final arguments.
Goulding said there was no evidence the guards had done anything criminal.
The final outstanding charge was withdrawn by the Crown in February.
The statement of claim names the government of Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as the province’s chief medical examiner, Nebojsa Denic, as defendants.
The province is named as it is responsible for the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, which conducted the investigation into Henoche’s death, and the director of public prosecutions.
The suit alleges the director of public prosecutions didn't disclose evidence exonerating the guards in a timely fashion. It also alleges the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary “negligently investigated” Henoche’s death.
The document claims Denic ignored evidence that would exonerate the plaintiffs, and remained steadfast in his opinions about Henoche’s cause of death, despite evidence to the contrary.
The guards’ suit also claims Denic’s training was out of date, that his work was not peer-reviewed and that the director of public prosecutions should have known this.
None of the allegations in the suit have been tested in court. Neither the provincial Justice Department nor the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner immediately responded to a request for comment.
The lawsuit seeks damages as well as any other relief the court sees fit.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 3, 2022.
The Canadian Press