Jordan application denied, accused killer Stephane Parent to stand trial in 2021
CALGARY -- A Calgary judge has denied a so-called Jordan application filed by accused murderer Stephane Parent, arguing his right to a speedy trial was violated during the pandemic and he is entitled to a judicial stay of his charge.
Tuesday Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Richard Neufeld ruled the delay caused by Covid-19 was an exceptional circumstance and dismissed the argument to toss the case.
Parent who remains in custody, appeared via CCTV for Tuesday’s hearing. He will now face a jury in September 2021.
Parent, 52, is charged with the second-degree murder of his then-girlfriend, Adrienne McColl. The 21-year-old was last seen on Valentines Day in 2002. Her body was discovered in a farmer’s field near Nanton, Alta. Parent was arrested in Quebec in 2018. Nanton is about 90 kilometres south of Calgary.
Parent was supposed to go on trial at the end of March, but jury trials in Alberta were adjourned until the fall because of COVID-19.
Court heard shorty before Parent's rescheduled trial was to begin in November, he filed a hand-written Jordan application, against his lawyer's advice. Parent and his lawyer then parted way and the case was adjourned again.
The Supreme Court of Canada’s Jordan decision sets a firm time limit of 30 months between when charges are laid until the end of a trial, for serious matters such as murder trials.
Parent’s court proceedings will take longer than 43 months, according to when the trial is scheduled to end.
But Neufeld dismissed Parent’s application citing defence delays and unforeseen circumstances with the global pandemic, calling it a “discrete, exceptional event.” Neufeld said the remaining delay is below the presumptive ceiling.
“Jury trials were one of the first to be put into kind of a holding pattern so I’m not surprised the judge would say the pandemic is the extraordinary circumstance so therefore the presumptive ceiling of 30 months has to be waived in some measure,” said Doug King, a justice studies professor, Mount Royal University.
“In that decision, the Supreme Court said that’s not a hard and fast ceiling, that a judge needs to take into account any delays caused by the defence or any delays that are caused by extraordinary circumstances."
King notes many judge alone trials have continued.
“Non-jury trials have been going on all the time so there’s no excuse there for the COVID-19 pandemic to be delaying trials beyond a reasonable limit,” he said.
According to the province, as of Dec. 15, one Jordan application has been granted where COVID-19 was a contributing factor to the delay.
“A number of matters have been postponed by the courts while they adapt to this unprecedented situation and will be dealt with as soon as possible. The Jordan decision does allow for exceptional circumstances when delays are taken into consideration, however Alberta's courts are independent and make the determination of whether the time taken to complete a matter is unreasonable,” said the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service in a statement.
“Federal Justice Minister David Lametti said he's monitoring the situation closely and is prepared to introduce legislation to keep charges from being tossed out due to court delays caused by pandemic-related disruptions,” said the province.