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Coutts protesters in court

Posted on June 15, 2023 by admin

By Delon Shurtz and Alejandra Pulido-Guzman
Southern Alberta Newspapers

A judge has reserved his decision on whether to order a ban prohibiting the publication of information relating to search warrants executed during the protest at the Coutts border last year.

During a hearing Monday in Leth-bridge Court of King’s Bench, Calgary lawyer Katherin Beyak, who represents one of four men charged with conspiracy to commit murder, said the court should issue a publication ban on information RCMP used to apply for search warrants, which ultimately resulted in the seizure of weapons and ammunition. The ban would include information already unsealed and released to the public previously by another judge.

However, Tess Layton, a lawyer for several media outlets, argued there should not be a publication ban, and pointed out there is not rationale to support a sealing order and publication ban, especially since the information is already out in the public domain.

“From my perspective it is very dif-ficult to see how’s there any increased risk in trial fairness, given the amount of publicity that this case has already received,” Tess told Justice David Labrenz.

Beyak told court her client is con-cerned the evidence will be prejudicial should jury members have access to the information before it is presented at trial. She said the information police provide a judge to obtain search warrants is one-sided and little more than theory, hearsay and conjecture, all of which has not been tested in court.

Crown Prosecutor Stephen Johnson opposes a ban, as well, and suggested one way to avoid juror bias is to allow a challenge for cause, which is allows lawyers to remove prospective jurors who can’t render a fair and impartial verdict.

The previously unsealed court docu-ments revealed more details about the RCMP investigation that led to criminal charges, including conspiracy to commit murder, during the border blockade in February.

The most serious charges were laid against Christopher Lysak of Lethbridge, Anthony Olienick of Claresholm, Chris Carbert of Lethbridge, and Jerry Morin of Olds.

The men are set to stand trial, but will first sit through two or three weeks of pre-trial motions and applications during a voir dire; a minitrial within a trial that is typically subject to a publication ban because the jury is not present.

Meanwhile, outside the courthouse a group of nearly 120 people wearing white shirts gathered in solidarity. At some point they prayed and sang together while members of the Lethbridge Police Service were on site to maintain public safety.

LPS Sergeant in charge of the down-town police unit and public order unit, Ryan Darroch, said several resources were deployed to the area.

“Including members of the downtown police units, public order units, traffic section, patrol division, we’re working hand in hand with the Alberta sheriffs here at the courthouse to maintain public safety and support everyone’s right for a lawful and peaceful public display of their rights to protest,” said Darroch.

He said they had no incidents that involved any police deployment of interaction at all.

The street in front of the courthouse was blocked off and Darroch said it was to allow protesters extra access in case they needed it, as LPS was not aware of how many people were going to be there.

“We weren’t sure how many people are going to show up today, if we did have a larger crowd, we wanted a safe and secure location for them to display their democratic right for a peaceful protest, which is what this is all about, so we blocked off the road. They run some porta-potties and they had some space in case they needed it as they have in the past, but didn’t require it today.”

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