Judge issues publication ban in Hay River murder trial

·1 min read
N.W.T. Supreme Court Justice Andrew Mahar ordered the publication ban Monday in a Yellowknife courtroom. (Chantal Dubuc/CBC - image credit)
N.W.T. Supreme Court Justice Andrew Mahar ordered the publication ban Monday in a Yellowknife courtroom. (Chantal Dubuc/CBC - image credit)

Details of a murder trial involving a Hay River, N.W.T., man will remain under a publication ban for at least the next 10 months, an N.W.T. Supreme Court Justice ordered Monday.

Justice Andrew Mahar ordered the ban at the beginning of James George Thomas's first-degree murder and robbery trial.

Thomas is one of four cousins who were charged in connection with 25-year-old Alex Norwegian's death in December 2017.

Two have already been sentenced after pleading guilty to less serious charges. Another, Levi Cayen, is scheduled to be tried by jury on the same charges as Thomas next February.

Thomas appeared in court Monday wearing a long-sleeved white shirt with a buzz cut as a handful of Norwegian's relatives sat in attendance at what's expected to be a five-week trial.

But details about what will happen over those weeks will remain closed to the public.

That's because Crown prosecutor Duane Praught asked Mahar for a publication ban on Thomas' trial to run until the end of Cayen's jury trial.

Mahar said given the "grave concerns" of potentially tainting the jury pool in Cayen's trial, he had no choice but to grant the publication ban.

Mahar also issued a more restrictive order sealing some autopsy photos presented as evidence.

The publication ban in Thomas' trial is more restrictive than previous ones issued during the sentencing of Sasha Cayen and Tyler Cayen, who pleaded guilty to lesser charges in connection with Norwegian's death.

At the time of those sentencings, the judge ordered publication bans on the evidence presented, but delayed the bans from coming into effect until four months before the trials of Thomas and Cayen.