Mother whose son died in police custody gets legal support after public plea

·2 min read

A Halifax woman whose son died in police custody is now working with two lawyers after making an emotional public plea last week for legal representation.

Jeannette Rogers had been representing herself at a hearing of the Nova Scotia Police Review Board over the death of her son, Corey.

"I'm more than thrilled. So now I don't have to be a lawyer any more," Rogers, 70, said Monday.

"I'm feeling so much better. I came to realize ... these past few days that I'm no match for senior lawyers."

Rogers requested more time from the board last week to arrange legal representation. She told the three-person civilian panel she was "not in the same league" as the defendants' experienced defence lawyers, who are paid from public funds through provisions of the police union's collective agreement.

The board gave Rogers until Monday to find a lawyer willing to participate.

The review board hearing has been adjourned until June 21, 2021 to give Rogers's lawyers time to prepare.

"There's a lot of work ahead of us, because you've got to get this right," said Jason Cooke, one of two lawyers from Halifax firm Burchells LLP who will represent Rogers pro bono.

Son's death in 2016

Rogers's son, Corey, died in Halifax Regional Police custody in June 2016.

The 41-year-old man was intoxicated when he was arrested outside a hospital where his wife had given birth the day before.

Jeannette Rogers
Jeannette Rogers

A medical examiner ruled Corey Rogers asphyxiated in his cell with a spit hood over his mouth while he appeared to be vomiting. A spit hood is a covering over the face designed to stop someone from spitting or biting.

"We're not trying to assign blame unnecessarily. But we want to make sure that the facts and the truth come out on what happened to Corey. That's really why we are here," said Cooke.

"This is important, not just for what happened to Jeannette, what happened to Corey — but for what happens to everyone in terms of the process."

'It has taken a lot of stress off'

Rogers said the relief of having legal support has left her "elated."

She said she'll now be able to cope with medical conditions including debilitating headaches and trauma associated with the loss of her son.

"It has taken a lot of stress off. So now I can deal comfortably with my PTSD and my occipital neuralgia," she said.

The hearing was delayed last year due to the trial of two booking officers, special constables Daniel Fraser and Cheryl Gardner, who were found guilty of criminal negligence in Rogers's death.

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