Judge won’t allow voir dire on murder evidence

A judge has denied an application for two men accused of murder to conduct a voir dire concerning hearsay evidence.

A judge has denied an application for two men accused of murder to conduct a voir dire concerning hearsay evidence.

Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Kirk Sisson ruled the evidence should be heard by the jury, which will be selected on Feb. 7 for the five-week trial.

A voir dire is a trial within a trial to determine if the evidence can be put in front of the jury.

The hearsay evidence revolves around the Crown’s key witness, who was also charged in the April 16, 2007, stabbing death of Sheldon Mark Hiller, 47, of Red Deer. Hearsay is information gathered by one person from another concerning some event, condition or thing of which the first person had no direct experience.

Brent William Crouse, 47, of Calgary, is charged with first-degree murder and being an accessory to commit murder.

Larry Allen Scott, 54, of Red Deer is charged with second-degree murder and being an accessory to commit murder.

Both have been in custody since their arrests shortly after Hiller’s body was found in a ditch near Raven, which is around 40 km northwest of Innisfail.

The trial actually starts on Jan. 31 but the first week will be spent with another voir dire and a motion by Crouse’s lawyer Gloria Froese of Calgary to have the charges stayed by the Crown against her client.

The jury won’t be selected until Feb. 7.

Evidence heard during a voir dire is subject to a publication ban until it’s heard by the jury.

The voir dire will centre around Scott’s statements and interviews by RCMP.

The stay attempt comes in the form of an application under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Froese is expected to argue that the Crown has denied her client a right to a fair and speedy trial.

Scott’s lawyer, Michael Sparks of Edmonton, has this week to decide if he will join Froese in the application.

The trial had been set for a month beginning in early September but that was delayed because the defence objected to the accused being tried at the same time and needed time to prepare argument.

Both accused also had separate week-long preliminary hearings before the Crown decided to file a joint indictment trying both at the same time.

Both accused were also denied bail in separate hearings.

Charles Richard Beckett, 50, of Red Deer was also charged in the crime. He pleaded guilty in the spring of 2008 to being an accessory to murder and was sentenced to time served in custody, which was about a year.

jwilson@bprda.wpengine.com