Ruling clears way for guards’ trial in EMDC death
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.