Murder trial witness refuses to testify, citing health woes
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.