December 11th, 2018

Judge allows ‘crucial’ evidence in Hotchen trial

By Jeremy Appel on December 4, 2018.

NEWS FILE PHOTO
The Medicine Hat Provincial Court is seen in this Nov. 6 file photo. Two voir dires were heard in Aaron Hotchen's drug and firearms trial on Monday, Dec. 3, 2018. The judge ruled on one that day, while the ruling on the other will take place Tuesday.


jappel@medicinehatnews.com
@MHNJeremyAppel

Evidence gathered from a late 2017 police raid of an acreage near Seven Persons has been deemed admissible.

Although Medicine Hat Provincial Court Judge Paul Pharo agreed Aaron Hotchen’s rights were violated under section 8 of the Charter, which guards against unreasonable search and seizure, he deemed the value of the evidence to outweigh the infringement of Hotchen’s rights.

“The more crucial the evidence, the more serious a breach must be,” Pharo said.

Monday’s ruling was the outcome of a voir dire, which is a trial within a trial to determine the admissibility of evidence.

On Oct. 22, 2017 around 4 p.m., police made a “dynamic entry” onto a rural residence in Seven Persons where the accused was staying, seizing methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, an unknown substance, a sawed-off shotgun, ammunition and cash.

Medicine Hat Police Service Const. Chance Franklin, who testified last week, left the physical copy of the warrant in his car, which was located one kilometre away from the property.

Hotchen asked to see the warrant at least once, but Franklin didn’t provide him with it until he was in jail.

When Franklin brought him the warrant around 9 p.m., Hotchen allegedly said he didn’t need to see it.

From this, Pharo inferred the violation couldn’t have been a “serious infringement.”

Pharo agreed with defence lawyer Marc Crarer that Franklin “could have quickly gotten the search warrant,” but acknowledged it was a “fluid and dynamic situation,” as police had been waiting for hours for the opportunity to enter the property.

One voir dire to another

Court heard another voir dire Monday afternoon to determine whether a Lethbridge police officer could be considered an expert Crown witness.

Lethbridge Police Service Const. Chris Running has been an officer for more than 12 years, where he’s engaged in 27 street level purchases over the course of 45 investigations.

“He has been thoroughly involved in all nature of drug investigations,” said Crown prosecutor Jeremy Newton.

Crarer argued Running’s experience dealing with meth and heroin, two of the drugs seized on the acreage, was too limited to consider him an expert.

Running seized heroin only once and it was a relatively small quantity, just 3.6 grams in a November 2015 bust involving much larger quantities of other substances.

Under cross examination, Running testified to having purchased meth undercover just four times. In two of these instances, the substance didn’t end up being meth.

“You were duped by an unscrupulous drug dealer,” Crarer said.

Pharo will rule on Running’s expertise this morning.

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