By Shurtz, Delon on September 12, 2019.
As a manslaughter trial against two men continues into its second week, a Lethbridge police officer testified he didn’t have any concerns about one of the men’s cognitive abilities when he interviewed him nearly two years ago, and believed he had given him reasonable opportunity to see a lawyer.
Both issues are being disputed during a voir dire hearing – a trial within a trial – to determine whether Rylan James Twigg’s statement to police should be admitted into the trial proper, and whether he was given reasonable opportunity to seek legal advice.
Twigg and Danny Simon Scout were charged with second-degree murder in November 2017 after EMS were called to a home in the 1200 block of 9 Avenue North, where police determined Kenrick First Rider had been involved in a verbal dispute with two men at the home. The dispute escalated into a fight in which First Rider was killed. The Crown later changed the charge to manslaughter.
Lethbridge lawyer Ingrid Hess, who represents Twigg, has launched a Charter application and argues Twigg’s statement should not be admissable since he was intoxicated at the time and didn’t have the “operating mind” to understand the implications of what he was saying. And although Const. Anthony Tupper read Twigg his rights during the interview Nov. 27, 2017, Hess believes Tupper should have cautioned Twigg again during an interview the following day when he was no longer intoxicated and better able to understand what was happening.
Tupper testified he had some concerns that Twigg’s ability to understand might be affected by his level of intoxication when he provided his statement, and he admitted under cross-examination he was concerned about the accused’s ability to understand the legal process or take direction.
However, when he spoke to Twigg the following day, the accused was able to remember the previous interview, and recalled he had been given the opportunity to contact a lawyer.
Hess suggested if the officer was concerned about the accused’s ability to understand him, he should have been concerned about Twigg’s ability to understand any legal advice from a lawyer.
During the trial Wednesday, Hess asked the officer whether he had any concerns during the recorded interview about Twigg’s cognitive abilities unrelated to his intoxication, and said it was obvious the accused has challenges. Hess said Tupper knew Twigg was from a disadvantaged home and was “Indigenous,” which potentially meant he faced additional social disadvantages.
Tupper said he was only concerned whether Twigg could understand given his level of intoxication, which is why he confirmed the following day, when Twigg was aware of what was going on.
Hess and Scout’s lawyer, Vincent Guinan, concluded their cross-examination of Tupper, and the Crown was expected to question the officer on re-direct before calling another officer to the stand. The Crown anticipates calling its last witness today before concluding its case on the voir dire. Defence will then call its witnesses.
The trial, which began Sept. 3, is scheduled to continue into October.
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