Key moments in the Ashley Smith inquest

Ashley Smith was a teenager from Moncton, N.B. who committed suicide on Oct. 19, 2007 at the Grand Valley Institute for Women in Kitchener, Ont. Guards at the facility did not intervene when she tied a ligature around her neck and choked to death. On Oct. 25, 2007, three guards and a supervisor were charged in relation to her death. After an initial inquest ended in a mistrial, a new one was launched on Sept. 20, 2012.

Oct. 23, 2012 – Federal prison authorities mount a legal challenge after the coroner in charge of the inquest rejects a request to seal prison videos of Ashley Smith. The videos became a key issue after a handful of doctors, backed by Correctional Service Canada, questioned the scope of the inquest. The prospect of more legal battles threatens to further delay the inquest.

Nov. 1, 2012 – Surveillance videos are screened in court showing Ashley Smith being repeatedly tranquilized against her will and threatened with having her face duct-taped. The coroner adjourns the inquest until November 13.

Nov. 23, 2012 – The coroner rules the inquest into Smith’s death will not be limited to the last few days of her life, despite the objections of her doctors. Smith’s family wants to know how she was treated at other prisons by other provinces long before her death.

Jan. 14, 2013 – The inquest into Smith’s death officially begins.

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Jan. 17, 2013 – Jurors from the inquest visit the segregation cell where Smith died on Oct. 19, 2007. The group tour aims to offer the jury better insight into where the teen spent the last weeks of her life. At issue is whether the view guards had into the cell at the Grand Valley Institution when Smith committed suicide played a role in how events unfolded. The inquest is adjourned until next week, when a guard is due to testify.

SPECIAL COVERAGE: Canadian Press reporter Colin Perkel has been live tweeting since the beginning of the Ashley Smith coroner’s inquest and his coverage has provided insight into both the details of what happened and the emotion behind the tragic event. All within the 140-character limit.

Jan. 21, 2013 – A video showing last-ditch efforts to save Smith on the day she died is screened for inquest jurors. It shows guards had watched for minutes as she gasped for air with a ligature around her neck before they entered the cell to check on her. After realizing that she was not breathing, the guards are seen calling for medical help, but it was too late to save Smith.

**WARNING, DISTURBING CONTENT** Video taken on the day that Ashley Smith died while in custody. Guards intervene, but in the end Ashley was unable to be resuscitated.

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Jan. 24, 2013 – Blaine Phibbs, a correctional officer from the Grand Valley Institution, tells the inquest he was reprimanded for cutting a ligature from Ashley Smith’s neck when she tried to strangle herself. Phibbs says a prison manager warned him he could be charged criminally if he went into Smith’s cell again under similar circumstances.

Jan. 31, 2013 – Prison guards testify they were shocked when told they could not enter Smith’s cell as long as she appeared to be breathing. Just a few weeks before her death, management told the guards they were entering her cell too often. Smith had been tying ligatures around her neck regularly and the guards were intervening to keep her from choking to death.

Feb. 21, 2013 – Coralee Smith, Ashley Smith’s adoptive mother, tells the inquest nobody has been held accountable for her daughter’s death. She says she is convinced Ashley did not mean to kill herself. She says she couldn’t believe the people who told her they would look after her daughter let it happen.

Feb. 25, 2013 – The inquest hears that Smith’s disruptive behaviour posed such a challenge that prison authorities began looking to move her within weeks of her arrival. Alfred Legere, former warden of the Nova Institution for Women in Truro, N.S., testifies that Smith began causing problems almost immediately.

Mar. 4, 2013 – Allister Webster, a psychologist who treated Smith at Nova Institution for Women, in Truro, N.S., says he believes she could have been “effectively managed” and moved out of segregation, but he didn’t have enough time. He says he only had a total of 21 days to spend with Smith, which wasn’t much time to do anything other than build some groundwork, then she was transferred.

*With files from The Canadian Press


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