June 23rd, 2024

Preliminary inquiry set in stabbing case

By Delon Shurtz - Lethbridge Herald on May 30, 2024.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDdshurtz@lethbridgeherald.com

A Nanton man accused in the stabbing death of a 54-year-old woman is set to have a preliminary inquiry this summer.

The inquiry for Ryan Kelly Sutherland, who has chosen to be tried by a Court of King’s bench judge without a jury, is scheduled for June 24-28. A preliminary hearing is typically held to determine whether there is enough evidence to warrant a trial.

Sutherland is charged with second-degree murder, three counts of aggravated assault and three counts of failing to comply with release conditions.

On Dec. 27 police were called to a residence in Nanton where Judith Hall was found dead. Her 55-year-old husband, as well as a 36-year-old man and 32-year-old woman, had been injured in the attack and were taken to hospital.

Sutherland was also injured at the scene and taken to hospital. He was ultimately arrested and charged. RCMP reported afterward that all of the individuals knew each other and the attack was not random.

During a brief hearing Wednesday in Lethbridge court of justice, the Crown noted there is still an outstanding issue that needs to be addressed, and he’s waiting to discuss the matter with Red Deer lawyer Andrew Phypers to determine whether the medical examiner will need to testify at the inquiry.

Crown Prosecutor Michael Fox told court the ME’s testimony was originally not going to be necessary because his evidence would be part of a written agreement accepted by the Crown and the defence. However, Fox said that may change now that the accused has hired a new lawyer.

“The length of the preliminary inquiry was largely established at a pretrial conference with previous counsel, and one of the outstanding issues was whether or not Mr. Phyphers needed to hear from the medical examiner because that testimony had previously been part of an agreed statement of facts,” Fox said.

Larissa Just, a student at law and agent for Phypers, said Phypers is primarily interested in hearing the testimony from four civilians. She suggested if the Crown wants additional specific facts entered, then the Crown and defence can work out the details of an agreed statement of facts (ASF), and whether they need to include the ME’s evidence.

Fox pointed out that because the ME had previously been excused from testifying at the inquiry, he booked a vacation. After Sutherland fired his last lawyer, the Crown subpoenaed the ME just in case he has to testify in court while he is on vacation. That testimony would occur by Webex, an app that provides appearances in court by video or audio.

“But we do really want to get a hard answer from Mr. Phypers about the medical examiner,” Fox said.

Justice Kristen Ailsby agreed, and said, “can you imagine…the medical examiner on holidays having to testify in a preliminary about a second-degree murder charge? Ailsby said. “It would make that holiday a little more complex than normal. So the sooner we can let that person know, the better.”

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