Crown calls final witnesses in case against first six inmates in Halifax jail attack

·4 min read

HALIFAX — The Crown called its final witnesses Tuesday in the first of three trials involving Nova Scotia inmates accused of conspiring and attempting to murder a newly arrived prisoner.

Prosecutor Rick Woodburn said in court Tuesday that Justice Jamie Campbell has a responsibility to use video to track the key actions of the six defendants, from the victim's 7:20 p.m. arrival in the unit until he was led out with stabbing and beating wounds less than half an hour later.

The prosecution hasn't suggested any motive behind the Dec. 2, 2019, assault.

However, correctional officers have provided testimony suggesting that Brian James Marriott, who will be tried later this fall, and Jacob Lilly, one of the six now being tried, rounded up inmates for an attack after seeing the victim, Stephen Anderson, arrive at the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility in Dartmouth.

Woodburn said the video showed that within minutes, there was a gathering of inmates in an upper-level cell, and shortly afterwards they descended to the ground floor and hurried into Anderson's cell, as a wall of inmates formed to prevent correctional officers from intervening.

Defence lawyer Billy Sparks argued Tuesday that one of the accused, Colin Ladelpha, wasn't named specifically by the correctional officers who viewed the video during the first five days of the trial, so the judge should enter a directed verdict to dismiss the case against his client.

However, Woodburn said the judge himself should view the video, where Ladelpha can be seen entering Anderson's cell. He said the judge should also consider that DNA evidence showed Ladelpha's sock had Anderson's blood on it.

Campbell declined the defence lawyer's bid for an expedited verdict.

The first defendants facing trial are Ladelpha, Lilly, Kirk Carridice, Wesley Hardiman, Omar McIntosh and Matthew Lambert. They are facing charges of conspiring to commit murder, attempted murder, unlawful confinement, aggravated assault, assault with a weapon and obstructing a peace officer. Lilly also faces a charge of assaulting a guard.

Eight other inmates are facing the same charges in a trial set for later this fall, and a 15th inmate, Sophon Sek, is facing the same charges in a separate trial.

Earlier on Tuesday, the trial heard from a trauma doctor who said punctures in Anderson's upper body could have been fatal.

Dr. Michael Biddulph testified as the Crown's final witness, saying the wounds were life-threatening because they allowed air into the space between the lungs and chest wall, potentially putting pressure on vital organs.

"If left untreated ... this has an extremely high mortality rate, and people will die fairly quickly," Biddulph explained to the court.

The videos presented at trial don't show what happened inside the cell where the attack is alleged to have occurred. But DNA samples introduced as evidence link Anderson's blood to clothing worn by three of the accused.

The case is unusual in both its scope and location, as COVID-19 requirements caused it to be split up and held in an auditorium-style Halifax convention hall. Large screens in the makeshift courtroom have shown footage of the chaos inside the North 3 unit of the facility, which is also known as the Burnside jail.

Patrick Eagan, the defence lawyer for Omar McIntosh, gave his closing remarks Tuesday, saying that while there had been evidence from correctional officers that McIntosh was closing the door of Anderson's cell, it wasn't clear from the video what his intent was.

"I think there's a doubt as to what exactly his role is with that door (of Anderson's cell) .... Does he have the opportunity to formulate a desire to participate in this thing, or is there just an instinctive reaction to being with the group?" the lawyer asked.

Eagan argued that the attack was what prisoners call a "bouncing," where some inmates use violence or intimidation to evict an unwanted inmate from their unit, not a deliberate desire to murder.

"This was a message-giving as opposed to an attempt to kill," Eagan said.

The trial is expected to end Wednesday with closing arguments from the remaining defence lawyers and the Crown.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 28, 2021.

Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press

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