Const. Daniel Montsion’s defence to begin case as manslaughter trial resumes in Ottawa court

Const. Daniel Montsion (centre) arrives with his defence lawyer Solomon Friedman (right) at the Ottawa courthouse on Elgin Street on Feb. 25, 2019. Beatrice Britneff / Global News

Defence lawyers for Ottawa police Const. Daniel Montsion, who has been criminally charged in the 2016 death of Abdirahman Abdi, are expected to begin their case and call their first witness to the stand on Wednesday.

Following a scheduled two-month break in the trial, Crown prosecutors on Monday formally closed their case against Montsion, who has pleaded not guilty to charges of manslaughter, aggravated assault and assault with a weapon in Abdi’s death more than three years ago.

Montsion was one of two Ottawa police officers involved in Abdi’s violent arrest on July 24, 2016, outside 55 Hilda St. in Hintonburg, where Abdi lived. Abdi went into cardiac arrest at some point while lying handcuffed on the ground and died in hospital the next day, court heard earlier in the trial.

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Crown prosecutors have argued that the physical and emotional stress caused by Montsion’s blows to Abdi’s face and body during the arrest contributed to Abdi’s fatal heart attack.

Abdi, however, had a pre-existing and serious heart condition, a fact that complicates pinpointing exactly what triggered his cardiac arrest, according to the forensic pathologist who conducted Abdi’s post-mortem examination. A number of physical stressors that preceded the altercation with police that July morning — including a foot chase with the second officer — could have pushed his diseased heart over the edge, the pathologist testified.

The start of the defence’s case will come more than seven months after Montsion’s trial began. Proceedings have continued well beyond the 12 weeks that were originally scheduled for the trial.

The Crown has called all its witnesses and formally closed its case in an Ottawa courtroom on Monday morning. The defence then requested a brief adjournment.

Off-duty paramedic will be first defence witness

When proceedings resume on Wednesday, the defence is expected to call Matthew Rousselle, an advanced-care paramedic who was at the Bridgehead Coffee shop on Wellington Street West, where Abdi first encountered police.

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Rousselle, who was off duty at the time, was inside Bridgehead Coffee when Abdi arrived and also tried to intervene in an altercation between Abdi and another person outside the café.

The following three weeks in September and one week in October have been bookmarked for the defence’s case and for a defence expert to continue his testimony about contentious surveillance camera footage that captured Abdi’s arrest outside 55 Hilda St.

However, Montsion’s defence lawyers now say they believe their case won’t take as long as originally anticipated.

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