Long-delayed EMDC trial set to begin Monday
Almost five years after they were charged, and several court decisions later, two former Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre (EMDC) employees are finally headed to trial Monday.
Jury selection in the joint trial of former operational manager Stephen Jurkus and former correctional officer Leslie Lonsbary is set to begin Jan. 14, the Superior Court office in London confirmed Wednesday.
Given the roundabout path of the case, though, nothing will be certain until the proceedings actually start. “I’m relieved, but the long process has been hard on my family,” said Deb Abrams, mother of the man whose death prompted the charges. “We just want this to actually happen, and make changes for others.” Her son, Adam Kargus, 29, was murdered by cellmate Anthony George overnight Oct. 31, 2013. George pleaded guilty to seconddegree murder four years later. J ur ku sand L ons bary were charged in March 2014 with failing to provide the necessaries of life to Kargus. It was the first time that Ontario correctional officers had been charged with the crime and the news prompted protests from fellow officers and ensuing lockdowns at several Ontario jails. A third now-former correctional officer, Gregory Langford, was also charged. His charges were withdrawn at the start of the preliminary hearing in May 2015 and he is expected to testify at the trial of the other two men.
The case against Jurkus and Lonsbary was delayed by that long preliminary hearing, a three-month wait after for the judge’s decision on committing them to trial, scheduling mixups and regular court adjournments.
The two men were set to go to trial in May 2017. But before that could happen, their lawyers went to court to argue the men’s rights to a trial within a reasonable time frame had been breached. In February 2017, London Superior Court Justice Alissa Mitchell agreed, and the charges were stayed.
The province appealed that ruling and in May 2018, the Ontario Court of Appeal agreed with the province’s stand, ordering the trial back on. The lawyers for Jurkus and Lonsbary then sought leave to appeal that decision to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Had the Supreme Court agreed to hear the appeal, the criminal trial would have been delayed even further.
But the Supreme Court dismissed the leave to appeal in December 2018, paving the way for the trial to proceed next week.