Judges bench at the Edmonton Law Courts building on Friday, June 28, 2019. An Edmonton judge has released a written decision for why he ordered a murder suspect to remove his COVID-19 mask during his recent trial. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Alberta judge explains why murder suspect was told to remove his mask during trial

Alberta judge explains why murder suspect was told to remove his mask during trial

EDMONTON — A judge has released a written decision explaining why he ordered a murder suspect to remove his COVID-19 mask during a recent trial.

Arnold Anton Stephens was charged with second-degree murder in the stabbing death of 17-year-old Ashton Cardinal in June 2017.

Cardinal’s body was found in a parking lot in northeast Edmonton. Witnesses said there had been an early-morning disturbance that included a fight with weapons involving several people.

Last month, a jury convicted Stephens on the lesser charge of manslaughter.

Midway through the trial, Justice Douglas Mah told Stephens to remove the mask he had been wearing up to that point so the jury could see his face.

The accused’s lawyer, Austin Corbett, argued that his client’s charter rights protected him from self-incrimination and he shouldn’t be required to do anything to help the prosecution.

In his written reasons, Mah agreed that an accused in a criminal case “is entitled to stand mute and is not required to put forward any sort of evidence until such time as the Crown has established a prima facie case.”

But he added that “absent the pandemic, the visible face of the accused is a normal part of the trial process.”

“My concern is that if I rule in favour of Mr. Stephens, it will lead to a situation where an accused can mask himself during the trial to avoid identification in cases where identification is the only issue, whether there is a pandemic or not.”

The judge pointed out that he himself,counsel and witnesses had gone maskless for periods of time to be heard better in a large courtroom.

Public-health protocols were still observed through barriers and physical distancing.

Mah wrote that Stephens wearing a mask during the trial was “entirely fortuitous and due to the pandemic.”

“What I have concluded thus far is that the court does have discretion to require removal of the mask, but that discretion must be exercised with the accused’s charter rights in mind.”

After the conviction, the judge ordered a Gladue pre-sentence report, which takes an Indigenous offender’s background and circumstances into account.

A date for a sentencing hearing is to be set April 9.

— By Bill Graveland in Calgary

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 1, 2021.

The Canadian Press

crime

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Red Deer Rebels forward Ethan Rowland battles with Medicine Hat Tigers forward Brett Kemp during WHL action at the Centrium Saturday night. (Photo by ROB WALLATOR/Red Deer Rebels)
Tigers claw back, hand Rebels 11th straight loss

Tigers 5 Rebels 2 The same old issues continue to plague the… Continue reading

There were six additional deaths across Alberta reported over the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 1,926 since the beginning of the pandemic. (File photo)
AstraZeneca vaccine is ready to be used at a homeless shelter in Romford, east London, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Frank Augstein
AstraZeneca-linked blood clot confirmed in Alberta

A case of an AstraZeneca-linked blood clot has been confirmed in Alberta,… Continue reading

The Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools Board of Trustees selected the name St. Lorenzo Ruiz Middle School to be built in the north end of Red Deer. (Photo Courtesy of  Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools)
Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools raises about $8,720 for Terry Fox Foundation

Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools raised about $8,720 for the Terry Fox… Continue reading

A nurse gets a swab ready at a temporary COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal, on Friday, May 15, 2020. Health Canada has reversed course on home test kits for COVID-19, saying it will now review applications for such devices. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Alberta declines Ontario’s request to send health-care workers

Alberta is “not in a position” to send health-care workers out of… Continue reading

Red Deer Public Schools will not pilot the new draft curriculum at its elementary schools. (File photo contributed by Red Deer Public Schools)
UPDATED: Red Deer Public Schools says no to piloting new curriculum

Alberta Teachers’ Association support school boards

Ontario Premier Doug Ford points on a COVID-19 caseload projection model graph during a press conference at Queen's Park, in Toronto, Friday, April 16, 2021. Ontario was set to backtrack on controversial new police powers to enforce stay-at-home orders implemented in the battle against COVID-19.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Ford backtracks on new police COVID-19 powers amid intense backlash

TORONTO — Furious criticism of new anti-pandemic powers that allow police in… Continue reading

The official program for the National Commemorative Ceremony in honour of Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, sits on an empty pew prior to the ceremony at Christ Church Cathedral in Ottawa on Saturday, April 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Prince Philip remembered as ‘a man of great service’ during Canada’s memorial service

Canada’s commemorative ceremony in honour of the late Prince Philip offered a… Continue reading

CF Montreal head coach Wilfried Nancy speaks to his players during the team's practice Tuesday, March 16, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
CF Montreal puts on a show, defeating Toronto FC 4-2 in MLS season opener

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — CF Montreal, carving open Toronto FC’s defence, cruised… Continue reading

Demonstrators using umbrellas as shields approach a point in a perimeter security fence during a protest over the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright during traffic stop, outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department, Friday, April 16, 2021, in Brooklyn Center, Minn. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Journalists allege police harassment at Minnesota protests

Some journalists covering protests over the police fatal shooting of Daunte Wright,… Continue reading

A container ship is docked in the Port of Montreal, Wednesday, February 17, 2021 in Montreal.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Montreal dockworkers begin weekend strikes as talks drag on

MONTREAL — Dockworkers at the Port of Montreal kicked off a series… Continue reading

Brad Dahr, 53, is facing numerous charges. (Photo contributed by Alberta RCMP)
Alberta man charged for alleged sexual offences against children

An Edmonton man has been charged for alleged sexual offences against children… Continue reading

A person walks past a COVID-19 mural designed by artist Emily May Rose on a rainy day during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Monday, April 12, 2021. Employment lawyers say flouting COVID-19 public health orders when off the job or coming into work while knowingly sick could warrant discipline in the workplace. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Risky pandemic behaviour off the clock could mean workplace discipline: lawyers

CALGARY — Employment lawyers say flouting COVID-19 public health orders when off… Continue reading

Vials containing Russia's Sputnik V vaccine for COVID-19 are seen at the San Marino State Hospital, in San Marino, Friday, April 9, 2021.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Antonio Calanni
China, Russia using their COVID-19 vaccines to gain political influence

OTTAWA — China and Russia have been using their locally produced COVID-19… Continue reading

Most Read