William Sandeson

William Sandeson, awaiting his second trial for the murder of Taylor Samson, told jail staff he was “feeling homicidal” and “having homicidal thoughts” according to a court decision released Friday.

Sandeson was charged with first-degree murder in 2015 after Samson, last seen entering Sandeson’s apartment, disappeared. In 2017, a jury convicted Sandeson of first-degree murder, but the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal later overturned that conviction.

As the Halifax Examiner reported in June 2020, the court ruled that Sandeson’s first trial should’ve been declared a mistrial after the traitorous conduct of a defence investigator came to light.

Sandeson was denied bail for the third time in October 2021, and according to Blair Rhodes’ reporting for CBC, he appealed that decision.

On Friday, the courts released a decision from Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Frank Hoskins, delivered orally on Monday, on a different legal battle of Sandeson’s.

In August 2020, while on remand at the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility in Burnside, Sandeson was disciplined for “for not complying with a direct order after he walked out of the dayroom” in his area of the jail. He was placed in “close confinement on the Health Care Unit (HCU).”

A few days later, according to Hoskins’ decision, Sandeson refused to attend the adjudication process for the disciplinary report, or level, and was found guilty and punished with two days in segregation.

Sandeson had been in “close confinement” since the incident, three days, so “his sanctions were deemed served as of the date of his adjudication.”

But “he refused placement options on other suitable living units” and “threatened to hurt other unidentified inmates if he was returned to a unit.”

On August 13, 10 days after the initial incident, Sandeson filed a notice of appeal form to challenge the two-day penalty.

(The decision goes back and forth between 2020 and 2021 in this section, but that appears to be a typo. The events clearly happened in 2020.)

On August 24, still staying in the jail’s health care unit, Sandeson met with jail staff about where he could be placed, but he wanted to stay in the health care unit:

Mr. Sandeson claimed to be hearing voices and did not want to leave HCU. He was denied a medical hold by health services and therefore was not permitted to remain in HCU. Upon being told that, he continued to refuse to leave. He was ordered by CNSCF to leave HCU. Mr. Sandeson failed to comply with the direct order. In doing so, he stated to CNSCF staff that he was feeling homicidal, having homicidal thoughts, and stated that if he were placed in a unit with other inmates, he would kill or use violence to harm them.

Sandeson was disciplined again for those comments, placed in segregation again, and then found guilty a few days later, receiving a penalty of three days in segregation. He later appealed that finding of guilt, too, on September 3.

Hoskins said in the decision that jail staff tried again to get Sandeson out of segregation, but he continued to refuse and “maintained that he would attempt to harm others if placed with other inmates, or that he was not compatible with other inmates and therefore he wanted to remain isolated.”

“Mr. Sandeson remained in self-imposed administrative close confinement until February 26, 2021, when he was transferred to the North Nova Scotia Correctional Facility (NNSCF),” Hoskins said.

After being denied bail for the second time, in January 2021, Sandeson started asking about his appeals, but the two forms were lost:

On January 26, 2021, Mr. Sandeson met with Deputy Superintendent Verge regarding the status of his appeals. Mr. Verge was not aware that the appeals were filed. He suggested to Mr. Sandeson that he submit an official complaint about his concerns.

On January 27, 2021, Deputy Superintendent Verge received Mr. Sandeson’s Offender Complaint form coupled with two new Notice of Appeal Forms as well as submissions regarding the merits of his appeals. The forms were submitted to senior management for investigation. Initially, the investigation into the whereabouts of Mr. Sandeson’s original Notice of Appeal Forms failed to establish their existence, but after further review, the August 13, 2020, Notice of Appeal Forms were found. They had been overlooked due to an administrative error. The Notice of Appeal, filed on September 3, 2020, was not found.

Sandeson’s original appeal was “denied on the grounds that Mr. Sandeson’s claims regarding mental health were not supported by a decision from health care.” He filed another appeal and “supplemental written submissions” on February 3, and that was denied as well, on February 10.

In May, Sandeson filed a request for judicial appeal. That province opposed that request because it came after the 25-day time limit in Nova Scotia’s Civil Procedure Rules. That leads to Hoskins’ decision this week.

Sandeson argued for an extension to the time limit. He said he wrote a letter to the Justice Minister days after the February decision, which the department never received, and hoped “to avoid the involvement of the Court and was not aware of the deadline for filing a Notice for Judicial Review.” He also sought a publication ban on the application for judicial review. He spoke to Nova Scotia Legal Aid about representing him on the judicial review and the publication ban, but was informed that they didn’t work on those cases.

Mr. Sandeson stated that he has been relentless in his pursuit of the issue, hampered by his ignorance of the relevant procedural law, a transfer between correctional facilities, restricted access to legal materials, pandemic-related court closures, and a lack of assistance from Nova Scotia Legal Aid. He further stated that his attempt to resolve the matter through a letter to the Minister of Justice is constructive action that he took six business days after receiving the decision he seeks to overturn. The discovery that this letter was lost, after allowing more than three weeks to pass without reply, prompted his pursuit of this alternative mechanism for resolution of the matter. He stated this delay effectively consumed the entirety of the 25 days allowed for filing Notice for Judicial Review.

Hoskins sided with Sandeson, allowing the extension to file his application for judicial review:

In my view, the applicant’s evidence demonstrates a continuing intention to pursue an appeal or overturn the decision of the Executive Director after it was communicated to him on February 10, 2021 and provides an explanation or reasonable excuse for the length of the delay before filing his application for judicial review. I say that mindful that the applicant is an inmate incarcerated with limited resources and means to readily access assistance or guidance.

The justice gave Sandeson until January 31 to file the application.

Zane Woodford

Zane Woodford is the Halifax Examiner’s municipal reporter. He covers Halifax City Hall and contributes to our ongoing PRICED OUT housing series. Twitter @zwoodford

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