- Nova Scotia Courts
- A Halifax Regional Police officer took this photo of William Sandeson moments after he was charged with murder.
The first-degree murder trial of medical student William
The Crown and defence finished their final arguments earlier this week and the jury is deliberating.
But halfway through the trial, during hours of voir dire hearings away from the jury, Justice Josh Arnold and the two teams of lawyers tried to untangle a legal mess caused by private investigator Bruce Webb.
The jury isn’t present for voir dire hearings, and media are not allowed to report on them when a publication ban is in effect. Now that the jury is sequestered, the saga can be made public.
The defence hired Webb to interview key witnesses back in October 2016. In court, they accused their former employee of going to
Webb, a retired police officer with decades of experience who works for Martin and Associates Investigations Inc., was instructed to “lean on” the witnesses so the defence could get more information. He might have
While interviewing eyewitnesses Justin Blades and
Blades told Webb he was drinking and smoking in McCabe’s apartment, across the hall from where
The two students say they heard a gunshot from across the hall the night Samson was allegedly killed, and minutes later looked inside
But those details weren’t a part of the original statements made by Blades and McCabe to Halifax Police. The witnesses told Webb they were scared
Webb pushed Blades to give another statement to police after hearing what he had
The private investigator had been present for confidential meetings with defence
Because of Webb’s intervention, and the new police statements that followed, the witnesses gave testimonies in front of the jury which defence lawyer Eugene Tan said could be “damning.”
Out of sight from the jury, the defence argued that this evidence was tainted by Webb’s intervention. His going to police breached either solicitor-client or litigation privilege, they
Tan and his team also argued the Crown’s obligation to disclose evidence wasn’t followed. The defence wasn’t informed of their private investigator’s actions until about half-way through the trial. The lawyers said this didn’t give the defence a chance to argue the admissibility of the evidence presented by Blades and McCabe.
The Crown countered that the statements Blades gave to police about a bloody body were disclosed. In them, Blades mentions a “Bruce” four times. The defence should have done better due diligence in seeing whether their investigator had been in touch with police, Crown prosecutors argued.
The defence applied for a mistrial, regardless. Arnold came back several days later and ruled the application was denied. The
Arnold told the defence they could recall any witnesses they wanted as a remedy to the situation. In the end, they didn’t end up doing that.
Webb did admit facilitating a meeting between police and Blades was a decision based on emotion and he “should have taken more time to consider it.”
“I was motivated by helping this young guy get his life back on track,” said Webb. “He was harbouring what he saw that night for over a year.”
Webb also told the court he was scared that by not telling police the new information he would be obstructing justice. When he originally went to
Somewhere in the communication between the police, Crown lawyers and defence, this confidentiality was breached and Webb’s name was brought up in open court, potentially breaching his status as a confidential informant.
During secret in-camera hearings, which the public was barred from attending, the court dealt with the issue of Webb’s confidentiality. It is unknown what the decision on that matter was but Webb’s name was used in open court thereafter.
The jury continues to deliberate.