Careless driving trial delay due to disclosure issue

The United Counties building and Provincial Offences Act courthouse at 22 Pitt Street in Cornwall. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

CORNWALL – The trial of a Chesterville woman, accused of careless driving in the death of a Morrisburg lawyer, has been delayed half a day.

The defence was expected to start presenting its case this morning (Thursday) with an expert witness on the stand. The Crown had spent a full day from 9:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. Wednesday wrapping up its side on the third day of the week-long trial.

Catriona Kirkwood, 42, has pleaded not guilty to a single count of careless driving. A head-on collision in February 2015 on County Road 7, south of Chesterville, killed well-known Morrisburg lawyer Peter Remillard.

The problem brought to Judge Karen Baum’s attention Thursday was an issue is disclosure, the procedure where the Crown and defence share evidence ahead of a trial in order to allow either side to form their cross examination. In the case of expert witnesses, the defence is allowed to disclose to the Crown up until the prosecution rests its case. That protects the defence from having its information from its expert witness used and analyzed by the Crown’s experts.

Crown attorney Raphael Feldstein told court he received the disclosure at 5:01 p.m. — one minute after the prosecution concluded its case. Feldstein said there were numerous problems trying to access and print the 77-page PDF file, crippling the Crown’s time to review the document and to prepare a cross examination. He recounted court staff and police officers spending hours into the night helping him to access the document.

Feldstein also said he tried calling defence lawyer Neil Weinstein four times but Weinstein never answered his phone.

“I understand that strategy (for the defence) is half the game,” Feldstein told court. “(But) when you play so close to the fire you’re going to get burned.”

Weinstein said he didn’t find the request unreasonable but balked at the suggestion he was unavailable, saying it was “far from the case.” Weinstein said he would have been available by email or text message – forms of communication used by both sides in the past.

“(There’s been) no attempt to avoid assisting the Crown in this case,” Weinstein said.

With the case delayed a half day, some options have been explored, such as having both sides make written final submissions. The defence also suggested having its expert testify and then adjourn for the day, allowing the Crown to prepare for cross examination on Friday morning.

The case has been adjourned until noon for a status check.