Saskatoon judge rules police did not force driver's confession in fatal THC-impaired driving case

A provincial court judge found Taylor Kennedy's confession to police in September 2021 was not statutorily compelled. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC - image credit)

A Saskatoon judge has ruled a driver's confession that she had microdosed psilocybin mushrooms and vaped cannabis in the 24 hours before she struck and killed a nine-year-old was not compelled by police.

At about 9 a.m. CST on Sept. 9, 2021, Taylor Kennedy hit Baeleigh Maurice with her truck at the intersection of 33rd Street West and Avenue G while Maurice rode her scooter across a crosswalk.

Maurice died in hospital and Kennedy is on trial for impaired driving causing death.

The decision in Saskatoon provincial court Friday focused on whether Kennedy was compelled by police to confess to her substance use the day before — which she previously testified was true — or if she told them of her own volition.

In her oral decision, Judge Jane Wootten said she is not convinced Kennedy believed that she was statutorily compelled. Instead, Wootten said she finds it more likely Kennedy disclosed her substance use because she was concerned for Maurice and because she felt morally compelled to tell police about it.

Friday's decision is one more step in the voir dire, or trial within a trial, regarding the admissibility of certain evidence.

"We are disappointed with the judge's decision today, but we have a number of other arguments we are looking forward to making on Ms. Kennedy's behalf and we're confident in those arguments as well," defence lawyer Thomas Hynes said in an interview.

"There's still plenty of fight to be had."

In April, Kennedy's defence team argued that she believed she was legally required to confess her recent drug use and was compelled to do so by police.

Crown prosecutor Michael Pilon said that was not the case, arguing that Kennedy voluntarily confessed because she felt it was morally the right thing to do.

If Wootten had found Kennedy's statements were compelled, her defence was set to make a constitutional challenge on the admissibility of her statement to police, which could have had a bearing on the admissibility of an oral or blood sample.

The trial is set to resume on Tuesday.