Charges against a Red Deer man accused of second-degree murder should be stayed because his case took too long to get to trial, says his defence lawyer.
Red Deer lawyer Patty MacNaughton argued on Tuesday that it took at least 35 months for Nathan Michael Desharnais to get his day in court. That is well beyond the 30-month window for serious crimes established by a Supreme Court of Canada last July. The clock starts ticking when an accused is charged.
Taking longer than 30 months is considered “presumptively unreasonable,” said the country’s highest court, although there are exceptions.
MacNaughton argued before Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench Justice E.J. Simpson that Desharnais was not responsible for the lengthy delays in getting to trial from the time of his arrest in September 2012.
Desharnais was charged in connection with the death of Talia Nelli Meguinis, 27. Her body was discovered on Feb. 22, 2012 in recycling materials collected from a dumpster in Red Deer’s Riverside Industrial Park.
The murder charge and a charge of offering an indignity to human remains were laid against Desharnais following a seven-month involving RCMP and police from Red Deer, Calgary, Edmonton and Tsuu T’ina Nation.
Court heard that Desharnais was set to go to trial in September but his Edmonton lawyer, Arnold Piragoff, had been temporarily suspended from practising law. New trial dates were set beginning this past Monday.
MacNaughton, who began representing Desharnais last July after Piragoff retired, said her client was not responsible for any of that delay.
“This is a horrible delay caused by former counsel,” she said.
Crown prosecutor Bruce Ritter argued the delay coming to trial was not unreasonable given the complexity of the case and other factors, including “limits on institutional resources.”
Ritter told the judge “exceptional circumstances do apply in this case that were outside Crown’s control.”
Justice Simpson is expected to deliver his decision on whether the trial goes ahead on Wednesday afternoon.
While in prison, Desharnais was sentenced to six years on unrelated charges. His statutory release date is in 2019.