Judge to decide where to hold preliminary inquiry in Michael Drescher murder case

·2 min read
A territorial court judge heard arguments Friday on whether or not a preliminary inquiry should proceed in Inuvik, where the alleged murder occurred.  (David Thurton/CBC - image credit)
A territorial court judge heard arguments Friday on whether or not a preliminary inquiry should proceed in Inuvik, where the alleged murder occurred. (David Thurton/CBC - image credit)

A preliminary inquiry for 39-year-old man Michael Drescher is set to go ahead in the coming weeks. The question is where.

Drescher faces murder charges in connection with a suspicious death of a man in Inuvik, N.W.T. in June 2020.

In a news release from October 2020, police said that no other suspects were wanted.

The victim's identity was not disclosed. RCMP said he was found unresponsive in a home on Union Street on June 5, 2020.

The territorial court heard arguments Friday on whether or not the two-week preliminary inquiry would proceed in Inuvik as scheduled, or in Yellowknife with virtual appearances from Inuvik and Fort McPherson witnesses.

Crown prosecutor Gary Magee argued that witnesses, lawyers and court staff should be not travelling or gathering because of the ongoing pandemic. He said it would be "inappropriate" and "impractical" to travel to Inuvik to speak to this matter.

Instead he suggested video conferencing between the Inuvik and Yellowknife courtrooms.

He noted that at least three of the Crown's witnesses are not fully vaccinated.

Defence lawyer Kim Arial opposed the application, arguing that the sitting should proceed in Inuvik as planned.

She said Drescher "is not prepared to waive his rights to have his accusers testify before him."

While Arial acknowledged that video appearances are appropriate in some circumstances, she said that at least one witness has demonstrated a lack of understanding the importance of the proceeding and having witnesses testify by video further removes them from the formalities of the court.

She said that the context obtained by examining a witness in person is important and that proceeding virtually would "dilute the significance of proceedings to the community as well as to the witnesses."

Arial noted that no other sittings are scheduled for the Inuvik courthouse that week and that proper COVID-19 compliance would continue to be in effect throughout the inquiry.

She added that while virtual tools are helpful in many circumstances, the court cannot presume that it should always proceed with virtual appearances.

"Justice is to be held in the location where the circumstances occurred," she said.

Territorial court Judge Garth Malakoe will deliver his decision on Tuesday, Oct. 26 at 9:30 a.m.

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