Two former EMDC workers set for joint trial in January

Two former London correctional workers must be tried together on charges of failing to provide the necessaries of life to a man killed by his cellmate, a judge has ruled.

Two former London correctional workers must be tried together on charges of failing to provide the necessaries of life to a man killed by his cellmate, a judge has ruled.

“The allegations against these accused do arise from the same series of events, in the sense that what we are talking about is a beating by the same man on the same victim, on the same date, and in the same institution,” Justice Jonathon George ruled in a decision released this week. “It matters not that each accused did (or failed to do) different things.”

Former operations manager Stephen Jurkus and former correctional officer Leslie Lonsbary were charged in March 2014 after the murder of Adam Kargus by fellow inmate Anthony George at Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre in October 2013.

The unprecedented charges sent a shock wave through the province’s corrections system, and began a long and winding legal journey that saw one court stay the charges because of delays, only to have Ontario’s court of appeal reverse that decision and send the matter back to trial.

The trial is set for January 2019. Both men lost their jobs at EMDC.

The latest legal wrinkle happened in July, when Jurkus applied to be tried separately from Lonsbary.

In his public decision on that pre-trial motion, Justice George reviewed the arguments for and against having two separate trials.

Jurkus’s lawyer, Patrick Ducharme, argued a joint trial would be unfair to his client.

The two men face different allegations based on different actions, had separate roles and responsibilities, did not act together and did not interact the night that Kargus was killed, Ducharme argued.

The evidence against his client consists of one statement, Ducharme said.

But a jury will hear extensive evidence against Lonsbary, and although jurors would be told that evidence is inadmissible against Jurkus, the evidence still might have a negative impact on their decision-making, Ducharme said.

Jurkus wants to be tried by judge alone, but has been forced to have a jury trial because that was Lonsbary’s choice, Ducharme said.

A trial by judge alone would be quicker and could be scheduled sooner than January, he argued.

But Crown attorney Fraser Kelly countered that there were many reasons to hold one trial.

The charge is based on allegations each man failed to act when they were duty bound to do so, Kelly argued.

One trial would save court time and resources, avoid forcing witnesses to testify twice and avoid inconsistent verdicts, he said.

A jury will be able to independently assess the guilt of each accused separately, especially when given proper instructions from the judge, Kelly argued.

There’s no certainty Jurkus alone could get a trial sooner and that trial would be short, Kelly said.

Justice George agreed with the Crown’s position.

It’s not unusual for a jury at a joint trial to hear some evidence related solely to one accused, George said in his written decision.

There are safeguards in place, including direction from the judge, to help a jury remain impartial, he said.

Although he understands why Jurkus would prefer a judge-alone trial, people don’t have the right to a perfect trial, or a trial most favourable to them, George said.

Kargus was beaten to death in his cell Oct. 31, 2013. His cellmate Anthony George pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in 2017.

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