Mur­der trial wit­ness refuses to tes­tify, cit­ing health woes

Montreal Gazette - - CITY - PAUL CHERRY [email protected]­

The end of the Sep­ti­mus Nev­er­son mur­der trial will be de­layed by a month be­cause a key wit­ness has health con­cerns and does not want to be per­ceived as “a rat or a snitch.” Nev­er­son, 56, faces 54 charges re­lated to 13 home in­va­sions car­ried out be­tween 2006 and 2009 in Mon­treal, parts of the West Is­land and Laval. One of the armed rob­beries re­sulted in the death of Jac­ques Séné­cal, a 61-year-old artist and teacher who was shot on July 20, 2006, dur­ing a break-in at his home in the Ste-Dorothée dis­trict of Laval. The trial, be­fore a judge alone, be­gan on Oct. 1 and was ex­pected to wrap up this month, but Jeremy Rogers, 56, put a halt to those plans on Fri­day by re­fus­ing to tes­tify. In a writ­ten re­quest made to Su­pe­rior Court Jus­tice Guy Cournoyer this week, Rogers stated he did not want to tes­tify be­cause of health con­cerns and be­cause he feared be­ing known as “a rat or a snitch.” He fears his tes­ti­mony will jeop­ar­dize his safety and his busi­ness, a car re­pair garage in La­chine. Rogers was the sec­ond-to-last wit­ness ex­pected to tes­tify. Closing ar­gu­ments were set to be­gin next week. Rogers’ brother, Jonathan, tes­ti­fied this week and re­vealed he has a con­tract as a po­lice in­for­mant that could pay him as much as $110,000 when the trial ends. Among other things, he tes­ti­fied Nev­er­son hung out at his brother’s garage of­ten, in­clud­ing dur­ing a pe­riod when some of the home in­va­sions were car­ried out. Jonathan Rogers also said his brother was present when Nev­er­son told him “I kill peo­ple” af­ter he asked Nev­er­son where he got a rare coin that had been stolen from a cou­ple in Baie-d’Urfé. Jonathan Rogers said see­ing a photo of the coin in a news­pa­per ar­ti­cle about the then-un­solved home in­va­sions was key to con­nect­ing Nev­er­son to them, and con­trib­uted to his de­ci­sion to be­come an in­for­mant. Jonathan Rogers ar­ranged to buy the coin from his brother for $2,000 (with cash sup­plied by the Mon­treal po­lice) to help in­ves­ti­ga­tors gather ev­i­dence against Nev­er­son. Prose­cu­tor Louis Bouthillier de­scribed Jeremy Rogers as “an im­por­tant wit­ness” while ar­gu­ing against his re­quest to be ex­cused from tes­ti­fy­ing. Rogers even had a psy­chol­o­gist tes­tify on his be­half Thurs­day. She said, in her opin­ion, Rogers is suf­fer­ing through de­pres­sion over the re­cent deaths, in rapid suc­ces­sion, of his wife and fa­ther. She also said he ap­peared to be un­der a lot of pres­sure, but added the panic at­tacks he claimed to have ex­pe­ri­enced were all “self-re­ported” and were not di­ag­nosed by a doc­tor. Cournoyer re­jected the re­quest Thurs­day, but Rogers had dif­fi­culty an­swer­ing sim­ple in­tro­duc­tory ques­tions from Bouthillier. He had trou­ble breath­ing and asked Cournoyer to end the court day early be­cause he was ex­pe­ri­enc­ing chest pains. When Rogers re­turned Fri­day morn­ing, he re­fused to tes­tify. Rogers, who was rep­re­sented by lawyer Lloyd Fischler on Fri­day, in­formed the court he be­gan tak­ing med­i­ca­tion for his de­pres­sion a month ago and that the gen­eral prac­ti­tioner who pre­scribed it said it could take a while to work on his symp­toms. Cournoyer called for a short break, dur­ing which lawyers in­volved in the case, in­clud­ing Fischler, dis­cussed the prob­lem. When the trial re­sumed, Bouthillier said he did not want to ask that Rogers be charged with con­tempt of court. The judge agreed such a mea­sure was not nec­es­sary at this point. “Mr. Rogers has ex­pressed him­self clearly and in a rea­son­able man­ner,” Cournoyer said, be­fore agree­ing to post­pone the wit­ness’s tes­ti­mony to Jan. 10 to see if his health im­proves.

Sep­ti­mus Nev­er­son

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