Defence questions police interrogation involving man accused in toddler's death

·4 min read
Two-year-old Kennedy Corrigan suffered a massive brain injury on April 2, 2004, and died a week later at the IWK Hospital in Halifax. (Court exhibit - image credit)
Two-year-old Kennedy Corrigan suffered a massive brain injury on April 2, 2004, and died a week later at the IWK Hospital in Halifax. (Court exhibit - image credit)

The lawyer defending a northern New Brunswick man accused in the death of a two-year-old girl spent hours challenging two police officers who interrogated him 17 years ago.

James Turpin, now 41, is on trial for manslaughter in the April 2004 death of two-year-old Kennedy Corrigan at the home where she lived with her mother about 30 kilometres southeast of Fredericton.

"Officers lied to Mr. Turpin over the course of 18 hours," defence lawyer Nathan Gorham told the courtroom at the Fredericton Convention Centre on Thursday.

Gorham was referring to recorded videos played earlier this week, which showed RCMP officers interrogating Turpin months after the alleged crime in 2004.

A jury found James Turpin guilty of second-degree murder following a three-week trial in 2016. After an appeal in 2019, Turpin is now being tried in Fredericton on a manslaughter charge.
A jury found James Turpin guilty of second-degree murder following a three-week trial in 2016. After an appeal in 2019, Turpin is now being tried in Fredericton on a manslaughter charge.(Elizabeth Fraser/CBC)

Gorham put questions to retired RCMP Sgt. Mike St. Onge, who yelled at Turpin in the interrogation video to get up off the floor, where he was lying down — or he would pull him. The officer also threatened to take off Turpin's sweater.

"You threatened to take his shirt off, against his consent," said Gorham. " … You threatened to take him off the floor … that's an assault, right?

St. Onge disagreed.

Throughout the video, Turpin complained he was tired and cold.

St. Onge told Gorham via video call it wasn't his job to make Turpin feel comfortable. It was his job to stimulate him and get a statement.

Officers also argued it could've been Turpin's tactic to distract them.

Gorham also questioned St. Onge for touching Turpin's face and asked whether that was appropriate.

The officer said he has done it in previous interrogations and described it more as a "mother touch."

When asked if he would've done anything different, St. Onge said his language would've been a lot less "colourful" during the interview.

"I'm better polished," he said.

'You were lying to him'

Gorham also questioned Sgt. Jacky Audoux. He was part of the RCMP's major crime unit when Turpin was interrogated in the 2004 video.

In the video, Audoux confronted Turpin about a sexual assault Audoux said he had heard about during the investigation.

"You were lying to him," Gorham said. "You were pretending a statement existed when the truth was, there was no statement."

Audoux agreed.

Audoux also told Turpin he was concerned over the well-being of his mother and sister, which could "trigger some reaction."

Throughout the videos, Turpin also complained he needed to talk to a lawyer and didn't want to speak to police.

"Where is the line? Gorham said. "When do you have to stop and respect his decision?"

Turpin has said from the beginning Kennedy hit her head after falling in the bathtub in April, 2004.

The toddler was alone with Turpin when she suffered a major brain injury. She died at the IWK Hospital in Halifax a week later after being taken off life support.

Turpin was dating Kennedy's mother, Connie Corrigan, at the time.

Court has heard from 4 witnesses

Court of Queen's Bench Judge Terrance Morrison has heard from four witnesses so far.

The Crown also called Insp. Greg Lupson, the officer who stopped Turpin in Oromocto when he was on his way to the IWK to see Kennedy.

The officer said Turpin appeared to be in an emotional state when he was pulled over.

"The fact that he was quick to come out of the car … it's not very often you see that."

Then, Turpin quickly explained the medical emergency.

"He was visibly upset," Lupson said.

The trial, which started Monday, has been under a voir dire this week. A voir dire is like a trial within a trial and is typically under a publication ban if a jury were present. But Turpin's trial is being heard by judge alone.

Not charged until 2015

This is the second time Turpin has been tried for Kennedy's death. He wasn't charged until 2015, when he was living in Charlo. In 2016, Turpin was found guilty of second-degree murder, but three years later he successfully appealed his conviction.

The Court of Appeal found there wasn't enough evidence of murder but ordered a new trial on the lesser charge of manslaughter.