Douglas Hales murder trial could impact future trials
Watch above: The Douglas Hales trial made headlines in Saskatchewan throughout 2014. A key part of the trial focused on how evidence was gathered. As Joel Senick reports, the ruling serves as an example of how ‘Mr. Big’ stings could be used going forward.
SASKATOON – Douglas Hales’ murder conviction is important for Saskatchewan, however does not set a national precedent for cases that feature so-called “Mr. Big” sting confessions, according to a Saskatoon law professor.
“This is the leading judgement in Saskatchewan and so if there are other ‘Mr. Big’ sting cases, other murder cases in the coming years, you would expect this particular judgement to be important,” said Glen Luther, an associate professor at the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Law.
Luther added that the judgement’s importance hinges on it withstanding an appeal process.
Hales was convicted in mid-December for the 2004 murder of Daleen Bosse and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 15 years. Hales first confessed to the murder during a “Mr. Big” operation, in which undercover police officers pose as criminals, in an effort to get a confession out of a suspect.
The verdict in Hales’ trial was originally scheduled for late August; however a Supreme Court of Canada ruling questioning “Mr. Big” stings forced the judge in the trial, Gerald Allbright, to move back his decision.
The Supreme Court ruling found that the method could be abusive and elicit unreliable confessions. It threw out the confession of Nelson Hart, a Newfoundland man, who admitted during a sting to drowning his daughters.
“I think it’s important because it’s now a practical example of how that Supreme Court case should be applied to real life situations,” said Crown Prosecutor Matthew Miazga of the Hales verdict, outside the court house after the sentence was settled.
“We have to make sure that we’re going to produce reliable evidence otherwise we’re risking wrongful conviction,” said Luther, who practiced criminal law for over 20 years.
Hales’ defence attorney has said he plans to appeal the second-degree murder verdict.
“[Hales] was tried on the basis of a set of rules which shortly were shelved by the Supreme Court of Canada, before the verdict on his case was rendered,” said Bob Hrycan, Hales’ defence attorney, on the day of the verdict.
Luther said if the case is appealed, subsequent decision could heighten the national significance of the case as it pertains to the admissibility of “Mr. Big” sting operations.
“It could become much more important if the Court of Appeal hears the case and depending on what they decide it could end up in Ottawa,” said Luther.
“It is a case I expect we’ll hear more about.”
Luther also added that the decision might also hold more influence in the province due to the positive reputation of Allbright.
“[He’s] one of our most experienced criminal trial judges, one of the most respected judges in Saskatchewan,” said Luther.
“If you’re a judge or a lawyer in another case, you’re interested in what Justice Allbright said.”