Coutts 4 denied bail, remain behind bars for 523 days without guilty verdict, lawyer discusses judicial issues
Anthony Olienick, Chris Carbert, Chris Lysak and Jerry Morin were charged with conspiracy at the Coutts Blockade and will be back in court on July 25 for what is expected to be a pre-trial hearing.
The four men were arrested on February 13 and 14, 2022, during the Coutts border blockade. The Coutts, Alberta and Sweetgrass, Montana crossing was blocked by truckers and farmers in protest of COVID-19 mandates. They face charges of conspiracy to commit murder, possession of a weapon for dangerous purpose and mischief over $5,000.
Many argue the right to a timely trial and bail has been violated for the accused. All four men were denied bail in 2022, with the reasons for the decision protected by a publication ban.
In June, the four men appeared in court together, but with separate legal representation, for a pre-trial hearing. They were expected to appear for a two or three week jury trial, which was delayed due to pre-trial applications brought forward by defence lawyers.
Lawyer Greg Dunn, representing James Morin, requested an adjournment on June 13, alleging prosecutors haven't fully disclosed evidence of the police investigation, with disclosure arriving just days before this latest court appearance. Dunn has called this failure to disclose a violation of the accused's constitutional rights, rendering them unable to bring a fulsome defence of the charges against them.
In court, Dunn informed the judge that there had been 13 disclosure packages provided by the crown to date, with the latest coming just days prior.
The four men then sat through two or three weeks of pre-trial motions and applications during a voir dire — a mini-trial inside the main trial, generally subject to a media ban as the jury isn’t present.
Trial dates for the four men have yet to be determined.
We interviewed Chad Williamson of Williamson Law, a barrister and solicitor who has assisted Rebel News and The Democracy Fund in the legal defence of many who were charged or ticketed during the Coutts Blockade.
Chad is not representing any of the four accused, but was able to provide important insight into the case. We asked Chad to address two key points relevant to these four men.
First, how common is it for someone in Canada to be held in pre-trial custody for an excess of 500 days. Secondly, what challenges are faced by a defendant's counsel when the Crown provides either delayed or incomplete disclosure, the evidence against the accused required for a lawyer to build a defence.