Judge, defence spar over request for more time in Edmonton youth homicide trial

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The manslaughter trial of a teenager accused of participating in a fatal attack on an Edmonton student ended on a tense note Friday as the judge and defence sparred over the latter’s request for additional time.

Court of King’s Bench Justice Gillian Marriott and defence lawyer Brian Beresh engaged in what was an at times heated back and forth Friday on the final scheduled trial date for SM, one of seven youth charged in the 2022 attack outside a local school.

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When Beresh said he needed additional time to call evidence beyond the nine days originally scheduled — an ask endorsed by the Crown — Marriott twice said she was “astounded” by the request.

Despite saying it was “well known” she only had two weeks to hear the case, Marriott agreed to the adjournment. The case will be in court next Friday to set additional dates.

The adjournment comes after Beresh filed an application for “particulars” following the closure of the prosecution’s case. The longtime defence lawyer claimed prosecutors had gone from alleging SM was a party to the attack to suggesting he was the potential stabber who inflicted the wound that killed the Grade 10 student.

Marriott, a Red Deer judge, dismissed that application Friday. When Beresh said he would need time to consider how to proceed — including whether to put his client on the witness stand — Marriott replied he had just over an hour to do so.

“I don’t think you can put that kind of timeline on the defence,” Beresh said.

Marriott replied he should have been ready to proceed, saying a “senior counsel like you” should have planned for either outcome.

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Beresh said it was “not a fair” timeline and expecting him to begin calling a case that afternoon was “unrealistic.” 

“I think I’m entitled to think about your decision,” he said.

“Why, what do you need to think about?” Marriott replied. 

judge photo
A file photo of Court of King’s Bench Justice Gillian Marriott, who is hearing a youth homicide case in Edmonton. edm

Marriott added she made it “clear” from the start of trial that Friday was the last day she was able to hear the case, and accused Beresh of spending two days “alleging a change in (the Crown’s) position which ultimately did not exist.” 

It is not unusual for trials to take more time than is initially allotted, especially if unexpected issues arise. Judges ultimately have the final say in allotting additional time, but typically do so lest their final decision be overturned on appeal.

Friday’s exchange was one of several testy moments during the trial. When Marriott earlier highlighted a case related to the issue of particulars, she told the lawyers “since I’m doing the research for you.”

When Crown prosecutor Jeff Rudiak said Friday nothing had changed in the Crown’s position on SM’s legal liability, Marriott replied, “I am so glad to hear that.”

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Marriott ultimately sided with the Crown on that issue, saying whether SM or some other person was responsible for the stabbing was up to the court to determine, and that the defence had all the tools necessary to defend the accused.

She nevertheless said she had heard no evidence that put the knife in SM’s hands at the time of the attack.

All seven youth were initially charged with second-degree murder. The Crown later reduced the charges to manslaughter in all but the case of the alleged stabber.

One of the teens pleaded guilty to an accessory offence last year for driving the accused after the attack and was sentenced to probation.

Another youth set to go to trial alongside SM pleaded guilty to manslaughter but did not admit to touching the victim.

The Youth Criminal Justice Act prevents the naming of any of the accused. A separate publication ban has been placed on the names of the victim and the school, pending trials in the four remaining cases.

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