Epic Season Finale
Court Watch will take a break for the summer. I’m finally done law school and I’m moving to Wolfville soon for work. Tim says the column may restart in the fall, when he can rope another law student into writing.
So that’ll be it for me in the hallowed pages of the Halifax Examiner. I’ve been very grateful for the opportunity to work with Tim and his team, and being published alongside his talented cadre of writers has been a thrilling and humbling experience. Thank you to our readers, who have been encouraging, supportive and engaging. Keep spreading the word about the Examiner, and stay tuned for more.
Murder trial of Jimmy Melvin Jr. opens with getaway-driver-turned-informant
On Monday, the Crown opened its case against Jimmy Melvin Jr., who is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Terry Marriott Jr.
Lawyer Christine Driscoll opened the Crown’s case, noting to the jury that they might find the lifestyle they would hear described in this case to be “distasteful.” The Crown’s star witness is Derek MacPhee, a long-time associate and friend of Melvin, who alleges that he was the getaway driver for the murder. He says he drove Melvin on the back of his ATV to the scene of Marriott’s murder and drove him away after the shooting. He is currently in witness protection.
Crown lawyer Rick Woodburn began his examination of MacPhee with a thorough reading of MacPhee’s criminal record. MacPhee spoke frankly about his various convictions and pleas. When asked how many cars he had stolen in his lifetime, MacPhee estimated 300. He told the Court he carried a loaded firearm almost every day. He spoke about carrying out firebombings, shooting an associate in the leg after a fight, and throwing an ex-girlfriend to the ground during an argument. Asked by Woodburn whether his criminal record represented a complete account of his criminal activity, MacPhee responded, “For sure I’ve done more than that.”
The comfort and familiarity with criminal activity and police procedures that MacPhee displayed was punctuated only by a brief display of emotion during his testimony. MacPhee’s voice broke when he described the way the falling snow muffled the sound around the house as he heard five shots ring out. From Brett Bundale of the Canadian Press:
“You know when it’s snowing and it’s foggy in Halifax and everything is right quiet,” he told the jury, choking up as he described the loud sound of the gunshots ringing through the air. “I couldn’t believe how loud it was.”
The moment soon passed, and before long MacPhee was explaining to the Court how he later rifled through the deceased’s pockets for money and drugs he was owed before doing lines of cocaine with the homeowner using a bill taken from the deceased’s pocket.
Cross-examination of MacPhee began on Tuesday. Melvin’s lawyer Pat MacEwen got similarly frank answers from MacPhee about his motivations for informing on his friends. Steve Bruce for Local Xpress reports:
MacEwen said MacPhee was questioned by police on various occasions about Marriott’s killing but never told them about his or Melvin’s involvement until he found himself in a jam after the home invasion.
MacPhee said he called Det. Const. Josh Underwood and said, “You want to finally know that story?”
MacEwen asked MacPhee if he provided his story to police “in hopes that you wouldn’t have to go back to the penitentiary.”
“Among other reasons, yeah,” MacPhee said.
“You weren’t doing this because it was time to be a good guy and step up and do the right thing, were you?” MacEwen said.
“At the time, no,” MacPhee answered.
“At the time, you were doing it for the same reason you’ve done a lot of other things — to benefit yourself,” MacEwen said.
“Yep,” MacPhee said.
“Do what you have to do to get out of jail, like with all the other previous bail orders and sentences,” the lawyer said. “Agree to whatever you have to agree to so you can go free.”
“Self-preservation I guess, Pat,” MacPhee said.
The trial is scheduled to continue for five weeks.
Sandeson trial hears from neighbour who heard a “bang”
A friend and neighbour of William Sandeson testified this week about what he reportedly heard and saw outside his apartment on the night in August 2015 when Sandeson allegedly killed Taylor Samson.
Pookiel McCabe is one of a group of track teammates Sandeson had become close to while attending Dalhousie. Kieran Leavitt of the Canadian Press reports:
“We heard, like, a bang,” McCabe told the jury.
McCabe said Sandeson came to his door and “looked a little shocked,” so they followed him across the hall and looked inside his apartment.
“I saw a man there sitting in a chair. He had blood on him,” McCabe said. The man had his back turned to him and he didn’t see his face, he said.
He remembered being in shock and couldn’t recall much from the scene, but did say the man in the chair was white, with black hair, and was wearing shorts. He also said he saw blood and money on the floor.
“I didn’t see him move,” he said about the man in the chair.
On cross on Tuesday, defence counsel Eugene Tan challenged McCabe on his view from the hallway, and asked him about access to the apartment from the rooftop outside.
The jury won’t be back until Thursday, as the lawyers will spend Wednesday making submissions to Justice Josh Arnold on a legal issue.
In the News
New disciplinary charges laid against Lyle Howe
As Stephen Kimber wrote recently, the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society has laid new charges against lawyer Lyle Howe. According to the NSBS, not only could these charges not be added to the previous charges for which Howe has faced a 60+ day hearing, but apparently some of the charges stem from his conduct at the hearing itself. Howe said the charges show the society is “desperate”.
Gabor Lukacs wins against Dell at Small Claims Court
This decision came out a couple of weeks ago. It got a little national press — unusual for Small Claims Court decisions — as the plaintiff, Gabor Lukacs, is a well-known consumer advocate, described as “Canada’s national antagonist of the aviation industry” by the National Post.
Lukacs’ latest victory is against Dell Canada Inc. In 2016, Lukacs bought a Dell laptop advertised as having a battery life of 13.5 hours, paying $1,289.32. Lukacs found it only lasted three to five hours. He complained to Dell, but the matter wasn’t resolved. Lukacs seemed less interested in getting a refund and more interested in receiving the mythical laptop he had been promised: one with a battery life of 13.5 hours. This was apparently impossible, as staff admitted the normal battery life was between three and seven hours.
By 2017, he contacted Dell’s legal department. They attempted to settle the dispute with Lukacs, and after some back and forth offered to refund the $1,289.32 and give Lukacs an additional $600. Lukacs accepted this offer. When the formal settlement agreement arrived, it included a confidentiality clause, which Lukacs disputed.
Lukacs recorded his own phone calls with Dell, apparently, as he was able to enter the recordings as evidence to support his claim. I have to remember to do this the next time I’m arguing with a customer service agent.
Adjudicator Gus Richardson, QC found that Lukacs and Dell had reached an agreement by email before the formal settlement agreement was later sent with some additional clauses. Dell had argued the confidentiality clause was “industry standard”, but Richardson found that a confidentiality clause was too significant to be simply implied, as it “represents a restriction of [an individual’s] freedom of speech” (at para 29).
Richardson denied Lukacs’s claim for $1,000 in punitive damages against Dell for their conduct. Small Claims Court is very limited in the remedies it can grant, and punitive damages just aren’t available at that level of court, as satisfying as that would be. He awarded Lukacs the $1,289.32 plus $600 as originally agreed, with court costs.
FYI: Criminal procedure flowcharts
There are the best criminal procedure flowcharts on the Nova Scotia Courts website. They’re apparently designed for teachers, which is very cool, but they’re also great for people following court proceedings that seem to differ in small yet important ways — like the many ways in which a sexual assault trial can proceed, like I wrote about recently.
Check them out on the Courts’ “Courtrooms and Classrooms” page at the very bottom on the right under “Other Resources for Teachers.” Here’s what the general process overview flowchart for Provincial Court looks like. RIGHT? I KNOW! You can thank me later, CrimPro fans.
Thanks again, folks, for being a great audience. Tip your server!
Greatly enjoyed your column Christina – even learned some things from it! Best of luck with your legal career. Also thanks to Tim Bousquet for including court reports in the Xaminer and helping to foster a bright, new legal career.
Halifax developer loses case against another Halifax developer. Decision reveals this gem :
” The defendants make a general denial of the allegations. In their defence, they state that the plaintiff wanted to buy the property that is now the site of the Dillon in order to forestall the project. They also claim that there was an arrangement between the individual defendant, George Giannoulis, and the plaintiff’s president, John Lawen, to resolve the dispute over the alleged airspace trespass by means of a charitable donation by Mr. Giannoulis to Mr. Lawen’s church ”
I’ll miss reading your columns, Christina. Best wishes on your new assignment.
Best wishes to you, Christina and thanks very much for Court Watch ????????????
I really enjoyed this column. Good luck with your new job!
These columns have been great. Really good reporting and with a strong voice. We’ll miss you.
Great work Christina, we need more reporters in the court room and you did a fine job with the assignment.
Congratulations on your position, Christina. I hope we can stay in touch! I enjoyed Court Watch.
Will really miss this column – good luck!