Rul­ing clears way for guards’ trial in EMDC death

St. Thomas Times-Journal - - FRONT PAGE - RANDY RICH­MOND

The trial of two former Lon­don jail em­ploy­ees will go ahead next year as planned, after their lawyers lost the fi­nal bat­tle over de­lays in the case.

Lawyers for former El­gin-Mid­dle­sex De­ten­tion Cen­tre (EMDC) staffers Les­lie Lons­bary and Stephen Jurkus had sought leave at the Supreme Court of Canada to ap­peal a lower court de­ci­sion that had or­dered the trial to pro­ceed.

The Supreme Court dis­missed that leave to ap­peal Thurs­day, mean­ing the lower court de­ci­sion stands and the trial will go ahead. As usual, in Supreme Court dis­missals of leave to ap­peal, no rea­sons were given.

The trial should give the fam­ily of mur­dered in­mate Adam Kar­gus and the pub­lic greater in­sight into con­di­tions at EMDC, Lon­don lawyer Kevin Egan said Thurs­day.

“It prom­ises to be an ex­am­i­na­tion of the sys­temic is­sues that have been long­stand­ing at EMDC. Some light will be cast on the dark cor­ners at EMDC,” said Egan, who rep­re­sented Kar­gus’s fam­ily in civil ac­tion against the prov­ince.

Former op­er­a­tions man­ager Jurkus and former cor­rec­tional of­fi­cer Lons­bary were charged in March 2014 with fail­ing to pro­vide the nec­es­saries of life in the Oct. 31, 2013, mur­der of Kar­gus, a res­i­dent of Sar­nia.

The charges were be­lieved to be the first in On­tario against cor­rec­tional em­ploy­ees over their role in pro­tect­ing in­mates, and sparked protest among cor­rec­tional staff across the prov­ince.

“I’m re­lieved that they are fi­nally go­ing to trial,” Kar­gus’ mother Deb Abrams said in a Face­book mes­sage to Post­media News.

“My goal has al­ways been for this not to hap­pen to an­other per­son in jail, es­pe­cially EMDC, (and) that changes are made and guards are ac­count­able for their ac­tions or lack of ac­tions.”

Kar­gus’s cell­mate, An­thony Ge­orge, pleaded guilty to sec­ond-de­gree mur­der in Oc­to­ber 2017.

Mean­while, the Jurkus and Lons­bary mat­ter was marked by de­lays and ap­peals based on those de­lays.

The two men were set to go to trial in May 2017, after a long pre­lim­i­nary hear­ing, a three-month wait for the de­ci­sion about com­mit­ting them to trial after that hear­ing, sched­ul­ing mix-ups and reg­u­lar court ad­journ­ments.

Be­fore the trial could start, their lawyers ar­gued the case had been in the court sys­tem too long and their 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 trial is to start in Jan­uary. The start date was thrown into un­cer­tainty this fall after lawyers for Jurkus and Lons­bary sought leave to ap­peal to the Supreme Court.

Adam Kar­gus

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