Nova Scotia’s police review board agreed to a two-day adjournment on Monday to give Corey Rogers’ mother time to speak to a lawyer.
Rogers, 41, died in police custody in June 2016 after he was arrested outside the IWK for public intoxication. Police officers placed a spithood over Rogers’ head, and didn’t take it off when they put him in a cell. He vomited and asphyxiated.
The two booking officers who were tasked with caring for Rogers in his cell at Halifax Regional Police headquarters, Dan Fraser and Cheryl Gardner, were convicted last year of criminal negligence causing death, and sentenced to probation and community service.
But the three officers who arrested Rogers, brought him to cells and placed the spithood over his head were not criminally charged. Constables Ryan Morris, Justin Murphy and Donna Lee Paris were suspended following an internal investigation. Rogers’ mother, Jeannette Rogers, appealed the suspension to the police review board, hoping for a harsher punishment.
The hearing was supposed to start on Monday after bring adjourned in April 2019 pending the outcome of Fraser and Gardner’s trial, but Rogers asked for an adjournment to give her time to talk to a lawyer about representing her in the appeal.
Rogers is representing herself in the hearing, which has proven in the past to be a challenging endeavour for people who aren’t lawyers. She’s facing an administrative tribunal of three panelists, retired Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Simon MacDonald, and John Withrow and Stephanie Myles; lawyer Brian Bailey representing two of the officers, Murphy and Paris; lawyer James Giacomantonio representing the third officer, Morris; lawyer Ron Pizzo representing Fraser and Gardner; and lawyer Ted Murphy representing Halifax Regional Police.
Under the officers’ collective agreement, Halifax Regional Municipality pays their legal costs in this hearing.
But Rogers is on her own. She’ll even have to pay out of pocket to get Fraser and Gardner to testify at the hearing, to cover their transportation costs.
“It’s difficult to represent yourself. You don’t know all the legal ins and outs that a lawyer would know,” Rogers told reporters on Monday. “But I’ve been dealing with this now for four and a half years. As far as questions that I have for witnesses and that sort of thing I think I’m fairly well prepared.”
The adjournment won’t give Rogers much time to seek legal advice, let alone hire a lawyer to represent her, but Bailey, Giacomantonio and Murphy were all opposed to an adjournment of more than a couple days.
“From where my clients sit they would like to get on with this and get on with their lives,” Bailey said.
“She’s had plenty of time and we’re here and prepared to proceed, so in the sense that we have to take a position, we oppose the request for adjournment,” said Giacomantonio. “For Constable Morris, this has been over his head for some time.”
Rogers has PTSD after watching the video of her son dying, but she feels ready for the hearing and she’s ok with having to represent herself.
“It’s certainly anxiety producing, but I will get through it,” she said. “I will survive.”
Rogers is focused on trying to change police policies, or at least make sure they’re better adhered to, so others don’t suffer the same fate as her son.
“It’s important for Corey’s sake, for justice for him,” she said. “And it’s also important for other people coming along, because if nothing changes then nothing changes and some other person will be standing right where I am.”
The hearing is scheduled to resume on Wednesday and run every day, except for Remembrance Day, until next Friday.
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