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Defence tries to poke holes in murder case against William Sandeson 

Lawyers representing the Dalhousie student continue to question police, witnesses as trial finishes its sixth week.

click to enlarge Defence lawyers Eugene Tan (front) and Brad Sarson walk into court on May 24. - KIERAN LEAVITT
  • Defence lawyers Eugene Tan (front) and Brad Sarson walk into court on May 24.
  • KIERAN LEAVITT

As the med-school student’s murder trial finishes its sixth week, lawyers defending William Sandeson have indicated through their cross-examination of Crown witnesses where their strategy might lie for the remainder of the trial.

Sandeson’s defence team has indicated it may continue to argue there was an inadequate investigation by police.

On May 8, before defence lawyer Brad Sarson began questioning the Halifax Regional Police lead investigator of the case, Roger Sayer, Justice Josh Arnold told the jury they “may hear questions suggesting that the police investigation of the offence for which Mr. Sandeson was charged was inadequate.”

He told the jury it was up to them to decide whether evidence given would be enough to conclude that the police investigation was inadequate by the end of the trial.

Sandeson, 24, is accused of first-degree murder in 22-year-old Taylor Samson’s death. The night of August 15, 2015 Samson went to Sandeson’s Henry Street apartment to sell him 20 pounds of marijuana and was never seen again.

Samson’s body has never been found.

During his questioning, the defence counsel seemed to suggest that after Sandeson was arrested the police focused only on building a case against him and stopped looking for Samson. In response, Sayer told the lawyer that their investigation never stopped being focused on finding Samson. Even today the case is open.

Most of the officers questioned by the defence during the trial so far have been asked about their note-taking, and the wearing of “personal protective equipment” when examining a crime scene or area of interest. Defence lawyers have repeatedly asked officers if they wore gloves, booties and protective suits when gathering evidence or looking at areas of interest.

Of the 43 Crown witnesses who have testified so far, 24 of them have been officers involved in the investigation or civilians who have helped and/or are employed by the police.

The defence has also attempted to poke holes in the account of an eyewitness.

On May 11, Justin Blades testified that he and Pookiel McCabe—track-and-field teammates with Sandeson at Dalhousie—were across the hall drinking and smoking marijuana in McCabe’s apartment the night in question.

Blades said they heard a loud gunshot and moments later laid eyes on the scene in the apartment where a bloody body was slouched over in a chair. Blood was covering the kitchen floor and Sandeson was running around frantically saying, “I gotta clean up,” while holding bloody money in his hands.

After Blades took the stand, defence lawyer Eugene Tan called the testimony “somewhat damning,” but also told the media there were problems with the account.

Earlier that day, the jury watched Blades walk the court through the surveillance tape footage of himself and McCabe looking inside the front door to Sandeson’s apartment, at times becoming emotional as he spoke about the blood and confusion of it all.

Sandeson said nothing to him except that he had to clean, and asked Blades to bring around the car to which Blades replied that he wouldn’t, he testified.

Tan began to question Blades’ memory by showing him a video-taped interview he had with a police investigator on October 20, 2016, in which he placed a chair at the end of the interview table to replicate what he saw that night. He slouched over to show the officer what he had seen.

Tan had Blades and members of the jury look at a book of photos of the apartment taken by a forensic investigator—one of which was taken from the point of view of someone looking into the front door of the apartment, much like Blades and McCabe had done.

Tan asked Blades about where the chair with the body was.

“I could see it right there,” said Blades, indicating it was in his immediate line of sight.

In the videotaped interview Blades states the chair was “at the end of the table, directly in front of the hallway.” Based on the interview footage, Tan told the court the chair with the body would have been in the hallway and out of view of the doorway.

Blades responded to questioning by saying that when he recalled the scene to the officer in the video, he was scared. At the time, he believed rumours that Sandeson was connected to organized crime.

“(I) did the best that I could do…scared as fuck as I was,” he said, maintaining that he had seen the body that night.

“When you see a horrific scene like that it’s burned into your head.”

After Blades’ testimony, Tan told the media he “wants to hear the balance of the Crown’s case,” before deciding if Sandeson will testify. However, he says it’s “quite likely” the defence will call witnesses to the stand to present their own evidence.

Justice Josh Arnold told the jury that the trial is on schedule. It’s expected to run around two more weeks.

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