Coroner at cop killing inquest taken to court
By Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press
TORONTO - A long delayed inquest into the police killing of a developmentally delayed man that finally opened Tuesday hit a legal road block with lawyers for the family taking the presiding coroner to court.
At issue is a ruling by Dr. William Lucas that barred cross-examination of the officer who shot and killed Doug Minty about conversation he had with counsel before he prepared his notes of the incident.
Julian Roy, who represents the family, called it essential to question provincial police Const. Jeff Seguin on those matters.
"The family wants to test the credibility and the reliability of the officer's account and the impact his discussions with counsel may have had on that account is relevant," Roy said.
"It's essential that the jury have that in front of them."
In a judicial review application to Ontario Divisional Court filed Tuesday, the family's lawyers ask for Lucas's ruling to be quashed.
The application also wants the court to disqualify Seguin's lawyer on the grounds that he's in "actual and apparent conflict of interest."
Seguin fired five shots at Minty, 59, in Elmvale, Ont., in June 2009. Police said Minty had approached the officer with an "edged weapon."
Lucas quietly ruled last week against the family's request to cross-examine Seguin and a fellow officer, who arrived shortly after the shooting, on their notes.
He did so despite a Supreme Court of Canada ruling in December that effectively banned the involvement of lawyers in the police note-taking process.
"I find it would be inappropriate for the declaration by the Supreme Court of Canada to be applied retrospectively on these facts,'' Lucas said in his April 30 ruling.
The coroner accepted Seguin's position that the conversations he had with the lawyer were "well-established practice'' at the time and so were, and still are, privileged.
Among other things, the court application maintains Lucas "erred in law and exceeded his jurisdiction" by failing to apply the Supreme Court ruling and find solicitor-client privilege applies.
It's not clear whether the inquest in Midhurst, Ont., which was to last about four weeks and hear from 20 witnesses, will have to be put on hold in light of the new court action.
The inquest into Minty's death began in November 2012 but was delayed pending the outcome of the Supreme Court case.
Essentially, the family had argued police involved in the shootings were effectively colluding by having their field notes vetted by the same lawyer before finalizing their notebooks and submitting them to civilian investigators.
There was no immediate comment from coroner's counsel or Seguin's lawyer to Tuesday's court application.