Second-degree murder charges dropped against Eskasoni men

·2 min read
RCMP are shown at the scene of the death of a 33-year-old man in Eskasoni in 2019. (Gary Mansfield/CBC - image credit)
RCMP are shown at the scene of the death of a 33-year-old man in Eskasoni in 2019. (Gary Mansfield/CBC - image credit)

Two men accused in the death of a 33-year-old Eskasoni man have had their charges withdrawn.

Crown lawyers told the judge they would be submitting no evidence against either Kirk Daniel Gould or Roger Wilfred Prosper in the death of Harry James Lafford Jr.

Gould, who wore a dark-grey suit and button-up shirt, said nothing during his brief appearance in Supreme Court in Sydney on Tuesday morning. It was expected to be the start of his two-week trial for second-degree murder.

Crown attorney Steve Melnick offered little comment on the Crown's decision, but pointed to a lack of evidence.

"All I can tell you is that [the] Crown is responsible for reviewing its file continuously and upon our final review … we've come to the conclusion that there's no realistic prospect of conviction," said Melnick.

Jury dismissed

The Crown also would not say whether a lack of witness co-operation may have played a role in Gould's acquittal.

A 12-panel jury that was selected earlier this week for Gould's trial. The group was later dismissed by Justice Robin Gogan.

"I'm withdrawing the case from you and entering a not guilty verdict on the indictment," said Gogan.

"Mr. Gould is therefore acquitted of the charge against him and you as members of the jury are discharged from your service, although your service here was brief, I want to take this opportunity to thank you."

There were 23 witnesses expected to testify in Gould's case including eight police officers, along with a medical examiner and blood-spatter expert.

RCMP officers were called to a residence on Mini Mall Drive in Eskasoni just before midnight on March 21, 2019, where they found a 33-year-old Eskasoni man unresponsive and with serious injuries.

Lafford Jr. later died after CPR attempts by paramedics were unsuccessful.

Gould and Prosper were taken into custody at the scene.

Men set to be released

During a brief court appearance on Tuesday, Prosper appeared by video from the correctional centre where he is being held.

Gogan said that because Prosper was never formally arraigned for second-degree murder, that charge against him would be withdrawn.

Prosper was facing additional charge of aggravated assault in relation to an incident involving an inmate at the Cape Breton Correctional Centre.

The Crown said that charge was also withdrawn. Prosper and Gould are now set to be released from custody.

According to his online obituary, Junior Lafford was survived by seven siblings, his parents, girlfriend and two daughters.

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