Closing arguments wrap up in case of Halifax jail death – CBC.ca

Closing arguments wrap up in case of Halifax jail death - CBC.ca
As final arguments close in trial for Corey Rogers death, his mother says Halifax police failed her son
After receiving final instructions from Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Kevin Coady, the jury in the criminal negligence trial of two Halifax Regional Police special constables is expected to begin deliberations Friday.

The jury has heard nearly two weeks of evidence and arguments in the case of Dan Fraser and Cheryl Gardner, who were charged after Corey Rogers, 41, was found dead in a holding cell at police headquarters early on the morning of June 16, 2016.

Rogers had been arrested for public intoxication the night before and brought to cells to sleep it off.

The Crown prosecutor in the case, Chris Vanderhooft, said everyone who dealt with Rogers that night treated him horribly, including the three patrol officers who arrested him.

The jury was shown video of those officers when they brought Rogers to the police station. They carried him into the building and placed him on the floor. The officers testified that Rogers refused to walk and they felt he was playing possum.

"Corey Rogers was not playing possum," Vanderhooft told the jury Thursday in his closing arguments.

Vanderhooft reminded jurors of testimony from the medical examiner who said Rogers had four times the legal limit of alcohol in his system that night. He said knowing that, Fraser and Gardner should have kept a closer eye on Rogers.

After he was searched, the arresting officers dragged him into a cell where they left him face down on the floor. When he was checked hours later, he had vomited into a spit hood that officers had placed over his face, and asphyxiated.

Vanderhooft pointed to the security video and logbooks from that night, which he said showed the two officers failed to perform the sort of cell checks they were required to do by policy.

He said they entered some checks in the log that were never performed. Vanderhooft said the last couple of checks allegedly performed were too late because by that point, Rogers was already dead.

In his closing arguments, Ron Pizzo, Gardner's lawyer, said his client did the best she could under the circumstances. Pizzo reminded the jury that booking officers only received two weeks of training and none of that dealt with spit hoods.

He said they never had occasion to use the hoods and so never read the instructions, which included warnings of possible death or serious injury if a prisoner was left unattended.

Pizzo said Gardner's conduct that night was not a marked departure from acceptable norms, which is a standard the Crown would have to meet to get a conviction for criminal negligence.

Dan Fraser's lawyer, David Bright, said his client did the same thing as all other booking officers when it came to checking on prisoners.

He said Fraser and Gardner had experience dealing with Rogers, knew he was an alcoholic and that knowledge would have informed how they dealt with him that night.

Bright said managers can't simply insist that booking officers follow a policy when the officers have said they lack the resources to do so.

"There was a dramatic breakdown in the chain of command here and it is unfair that Dan Fraser is put in this position," Bright told the jury.

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The mother of a man who died in Halifax police custody three years ago says that the force failed her son.

Special Const. Cheryl Gardner and Special Const. Daniel Fraser are on trial at Nova Scotia Supreme Court for criminal negligence causing the death of Corey Rogers on June 16, 2016.

Special constables are civilians appointed to specialized duties, including the booking of prisoners.

Rogers admits her son battled with alcoholism and was well-known to police, but says he didn’t deserve to die in a Halifax jail cell.

Defence lawyers for Gardner and Fraser told the jury on Thursday that the booking officers were innocent because they lacked the proper training and that there was no policy when it came to the use of spit hoods.

Rogers was carried into the booking by the arresting officers who laid him on the floor at about 11 p.m. on June 15.

The Halifax resident was in custody for being drunk in a public place after he rapidly downed a half-bottle of whiskey outside a childrens hospital the day after his child was born.

He was placed in a holding cell. His handcuffs were removed but a spit hood placed over his face remained.

Fraser said that prisoners usually removed it themselves, while Gardner believed there was no danger in wearing one — despite a warning on the package.

A medical examiner told the court that Corey Rogers died from asphyxiation due to suffocation from vomit that was trapped in the spit hood he was wearing.

“No one took care to make sure that he was all right, and they call it the prisoner care facility but in Corey’s case there had been none,” she said.

Gardner’s lawyer, Ron Pizzo, has argued that the demands of the job and the rigorous guidelines for completing cell checks were not possible to perform alone.

Pizzo said the cell checks that Gardner made that night were consistent with what any other booking officer would have done.

Crown Prosecutor Chris Vanderhooft argued that Corey Rogers wasn’t playing possum like the booking officers assumed. Rather, Corey Rogers was highly intoxicated and needed medical care.

READ MORE: Halifax constable testifies he wasnt required to enter cell to check on inmate who died

Vanderhooft said that had the booking officers followed policy and performed a so-called “Four-R” observation checklist — rousing the prisoner, checking their response to questions, assessing their response to commands and remembering to take into account the possibility of other illnesses — the spit hood would have been removed and there would have been no need for a trial.

Judge Kevin Coady will deliver the charges to the jury on Friday morning and a verdict will be left in the hands of the jury.