FREDERICTON — The release of some exhibits entered as evidence at Justin Bourque’s sentencing would traumatize the families of the RCMP officers he shot and others in Moncton, N.B., the Crown argued Monday.
News media organizations including The Canadian Press have asked for access to exhibits used at the sentencing hearing for Bourque, who pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder in the June 4 shooting rampage.
Crown lawyer Cameron Gunn said he supports an open court system and is not against the release of all exhibits. But Gunn said he is opposed to some evidence being made public, including photos of the injured Mounties, radio transmissions of some of the last messages from the officers who were killed and a videotaped interview Bourque gave to police after his arrest.
“We seek balance,” Gunn told Judge David Smith of the Court of Queen’s Bench.
“We have no issue with the majority of the exhibits. It is only the items that will retraumatize the people who are most traumatized by this.”
Gunn said he is concerned that if Bourque’s police interview were to be released, it would be on the Internet forever.
“Then you give him a voice in perpetuity,” Gunn said. “That cannot be a balance.”
David Lutz, Bourque’s lawyer, said he is also concerned about his client’s police interview having a permanent presence online if it were released.
Lutz used examples of notorious figures from the United States in his argument, referencing Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and cult leader David Koresh. The video would be played repeatedly, he said, possibly making Bourque the “Timothy McVeigh or David Koresh of Canada.”
“The media will only have it for a moment and then will lose control of it,” Lutz said, adding that Bourque told him he doesn’t want people further victimized by the release of his statement to police.
During that interview, which was played in court at his sentencing hearing, Bourque said he used a semi-automatic rifle to shoot three RCMP officers dead and wound two others because he was trying to start a rebellion against a government that he believed was oppressive and corrupt.
David Coles, the lawyer representing the media, argued in court Monday that the public has a right to see and hear the evidence used to sentence Bourque to life in prison without parole eligibility for 75 years — the harshest sentence since the last state-sanctioned execution in 1962.
Coles said if the exhibits remain sealed from public view, there’s no way people can have an informed debate on whether the judge made the correct decision in sentencing.
Coles also said the evidence should be made public because while it was presented in open court, not everyone could be there to hear it, and the information it conveys is of interest throughout the country.
“There is a legitimate public interest in getting as much information we possibly can,” Coles said. “You have a bloodbath here. Are our security forces properly trained?”
Other news organizations that are requesting access to the exhibits are the CBC, CTV News, Global News, the Globe and Mail and Brunswick News.
Bourque killed constables Dave Ross, 32, Fabrice Gevaudan, 45, and Doug Larche, 40.
Constables Eric Dubois and Darlene Goguen were also injured in the shootings, which brought Moncton to a standstill before Bourque was arrested nearly 30 hours later.