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January 1994: Due Process Visits the Principalís Office

The first disciplinary hearing of 1994 took place on January 5. The docket was a long one, and the proceedings were interrupted by a remarkable "time out" in the middle of the morning.

First on the docket was the case of Mr. Longtin, which had been adjourned so that Mr. Gordon could be brought from Kent Institution to give evidence for the defence. Mr. Gordon testified that the contraband yeast discovered in Mr. Longtinís cell belonged to him and had been placed there without Mr. Longtinís knowledge. When asked by Mr. Walters why he had access to Mr. Longtinís cell, he replied that the two of them worked out together and he spent a lot of time in Mr. Longtinís cell. He had been transferred to Kent for possession of contraband brew, he said. Questioned about why he had not come forward earlier, he replied that he learned of Mr. Longtinís charge only a few days before he was transferred to Kent, when he met up with Mr. Longtin in the hole.

Mr. Gordon was dismissed from the hearing room, and Mr. Walters reviewed his notes from two weeks earlier, in particular the evidence of Officer Shannon. Having done that, he asked to have Mr. Gordon brought back into the courtroom and proceeded with some further questions. In response, Mr. Gordon said that he had put the yeast in a pair of pants at the bottom of Mr. Longtinís locker, that the yeast was in its original packet and that it was wrapped in plastic. He couldnít remember the brand name on the packet, although he had swiped it from the kitchen. He also said the packet was about one-third full. Finally, he was asked whether he had had any communication with Mr. Longtin since his transfer to Kent. He said he had not; he gone straight from the hole in Matsqui to the hole in Kent and remained there ever since.

Mr. Walters found Mr. Longtin not guilty, on the basis that Mr. Gordonís evidence raised a reasonable doubt in his mind as to whether Mr. Longtin was in possession of contraband. He said that his questions had been designed to test Mr. Gordonís story against the evidence of Officer Shannon and, in his opinion, Mr. Gordonís evidence could reasonably be true. Mr. Gerl, the institutional advisor, was clearly upset by this decision.

The next case involved Mr. Hill, who was charged with possession of contraband and pleaded not guilty. Officer Tate testified that while doing security rounds he had seen another prisoner, Mr. Campbell, in Mr. Hillís cell, and they were smoking what he believed to be marijuana, judging by its smell. He entered the cell and told them to "huck the butt" out the window, giving them the benefit of the doubt. He then observed a piece of what he believed to be hashish on the table near where Mr. Hill was standing. He seized it and placed it in an envelope which was sent for analysis. He produced the envelope during the hearing. Also attached to the charge sheet was a certificate indicating that the material analyzed contained THC (the active ingredient in hashish).

In cross-examination, Mr. Hill asked Officer Tate whether he was aware that prisoners grew their own tobacco in Matsqui and that when smoked the homegrown product gave off a smell similar to marijuana. Officer Tate said that was why he had at first given the men the benefit of the doubt. Mr. Hill then said he wanted to call Mr. Campbell as a witness, to testify that the hashish was his. Officer Tate conceded that Mr. Campbell had admitted the drug was his the day after the incident. When Mr. Walters asked why the other prisoner had not been charged, Officer Tate responded that Mr. Hill was responsible for what was in his cell, and the drug had been lying in the open very close to him. Mr. Walters then asked Mr. Hill why Mr. Campbell had not owned up to the drug at the time it was seized. Mr. Hill replied that after the officer left, Mr. Campbell told him he would go to staff the next day and admit that the drug was his. That was precisely what he did.

Mr. Walters found Mr. Hill not guilty, on the basis that he had a reasonable doubt as to whether Mr. Hill was legally in possession of the drug. At this point, Mr. Gerl asked if the court could be stood down and we moved to Mr. Gerlís office. He said he had a real problem with the two decisions that morning. He could not understand why Mr. Hill was acquitted; he knew the law required that there be knowledge, control, and consent, but as far as he was concerned those had been proved. The hashish had been found in Mr. Hillís cell, so he had control, and it was out in the open, so he had consent and knowledge. Mr. Gerl was particularly concerned about Mr. Hillís statement that he was not responsible for everything in his cell or for what other people brought into it. Under institutional policy, prisoners were responsible for what was in their cell. Otherwise, it would be impossible to ever bring a charge of contraband against a prisoner. Mr. Gerl also challenged Mr. Waltersí acceptance of Mr. Gordonís evidence. The man had a record of brew-related offences as long as his arm, he said, and could hardly be seen as a credible witness. He had probably described the location of the yeast after seeing the offence reports and having Longtin tell him what to say. Mr. Gerl concluded, "There is a real credibility issue in the institution. In light of todayís acquittals and the ones from the previous hearings, the staff might start giving up laying charges because they would see it as being a complete waste of time."

Mr. Walters addressed Mr. Gerlís points regarding the two acquittals. He felt that Mr. Gordonís evidence was sufficient to raise a reasonable doubt as to whose yeast it was and whether Mr. Longtin had any knowledge of it. Mr. Gordonís evidence was detailed, precise, and consistent with the evidence of Officer Shannon. From observing Mr. Gordon on the two or three occasions he had been in court, Mr. Walters doubted the prisoner could keep that kind of detail in his head unless he was speaking about matters of which he had personal knowledge. The fact that Mr. Gordon had a record of brew-related charges added to his credibility, because it illustrated his propensity for this kind of offence.

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