By Andru McCracken
Expert testimony shared during a preliminary inquiry regarding a car crash that killed a McBride man cannot be printed because it could taint a jury. That’s the decision taken by Regional Administrative Judge Hon. Michael
Brecknell in a hearing on the matter on Thursday, December 5 in Valemount.
The Rocky Mountain Goat newspaper is able to report that Vanessa White will be tried in the Supreme Court of Canada for Criminal Negligence Causing Death, but expert testimony that was heard at the preliminary inquiry cannot be published until the trial is over.
Publication bans are mandatory when applied for by the defence at the outset of a preliminary hearing, but both defence counsel and the Crown failed to apply for the publication ban at the beginning of the preliminary hearing on September 26. They applied for the ban after expert witness testimony was heard.
Judge Brecknell chided the lawyers for forgetting procedure and pointed out that if the reporter present had been reporting live, the expert testimony would have been fair game.
The Rocky Mountain Goat intervened asking that the publication ban not be granted on account of the mistake and the importance of the case to the community and because the trial was being moved to Supreme Court, where the local newspaper would not have the opportunity to cover it. The trail will uncover more about the events that led up to the death of a well-known and respected local, Dwayne Needham.
At the publication ban hearing December 5, the Goat argued that a mistake had been made, a crack, and that the crack let the light in.
“It is frustrating for the court that the very officers that appear before it on a regular basis fail to address fundamental issues from time to time. But having said that, any attempt by the court in this case to share its concerns or rent its frustration with the lack of application of the criminal code at the preliminary inquiry should not result in any even potential undue harm to the concept of a fair trial. That is why […] I am going to impose a publication ban,” said Judge Brecknell, but he did offer some potential mitigation.
“In this modern world, we have to make more of an effort to assist people getting themselves into the courtroom to watch what’s going on. I appreciate that people in Valemount will have a very big interest in the outcome of this trial, and they live 300 km away from where the trial is likely to be held.”
Brecknell said there are provisions for interested parties to appear at the trial as members of the public or audience via video conference. Brecknell had harsh words for the Crown Counsel and the lawyers representing Miss
White at Jensen Law Corporation. He said that the lawyers for the case should not ‘render a bill’ to White for the attendance of a lawyer in court on December 5 or for the preparation of the materials in support of their application.
The Rocky Mountain Goat will do its best to report on the case in the future. At the time of publication it is unknown when the Supreme Court Trial of Vanessa White will be heard.