Forensic pathologist takes stand during Halifax jail cell death trial

Nova Scotia Supreme Court hears how Corey Rogers died in police custody
WATCH: The trial of two special constables for criminal negligence in the death of Corey Rogers continued on Wednesday. Jesse Thomas was in court and brings us the latest.

Nova Scotia Supreme Court has learned how Corey Rogers died in a Halifax police jail cell more than three years ago.

Two special constables, Daniel Fraser and Cheryl Gardner, were the booking officers that night when Rogers was arrested and brought to jail on public drunkenness charges. They are now on trial for criminal negligence causing Rogers’ death.

The 41-year-old died in June 2016 after he was taken into custody and left in a cell wearing a spit hood.

Forensic pathologist Dr. Marnie Wood took the witness stand Wednesday and performed the autopsy on Rogers, the morning after he was found dead in his holding cell.

READ MORE: Halifax trial begins for 2 special constables in the death of Corey Rogers

Dr. Wood’s toxicology report showed Rogers’ blood alcohol level was .367 per 100 millilitres of blood, roughly four times greater than the legal limit to drive, she said.

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Asked by crown prosecutor Chris Vanderhooft if that would be considered a lethal amount of alcohol in Roger’s system, Wood said that such a blood-alcohol level would not be fatal but could lower someone’s level of consciousness.

Through her autopsy, Wood said she discovered no other visible injuries or signs of any disease that could have played a roll in Rogers’ death, but determined the cause of death was asphyxia due to suffocation.

Nova Scotia Supreme Court hears how Corey Rogers died in police custody
Nova Scotia Supreme Court hears how Corey Rogers died in police custody

The medical examiner, who said the spit hood that Rogers was wearing was filled with vomit and the liquid was unable to escape the mask, told the jury that Rogers died because of a lack of oxygen.

Earlier in the trial, Halifax Regional Police Const. Justin Murphy, who was one of the arresting officers, said Rogers was intoxicated at the IWK hospital where his girlfriend had just given birth to his baby.

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Rogers was arrested at the hospital, placed in handcuffs and put into a police cruiser to be taken to the drunk tank for the night, Murphy said, and that’s when Rogers began spitting in the back of the car and violently smashing his head against the cruiser.

Murphy said a spit hood was put on Rogers at the police station and he was taken to an empty cell, where he was laid on the floor and his cuffs removed.

A video of the jail cell showed Rogers was alive when he was brought in, said Wood from the witness stand.

READ MORE: 2 Halifax Regional Police special constables charged with criminal negligence causing death

Between the hours of 11:15 and 11:30 p.m., Wood said the video, which was grainy, showed Rogers moving as he laid on the floor face-down with the spit hood still covering his face.

Wood said that around 11:44 p.m., the video appeared to show Rogers vomiting. His stomach heaved, she said, which seemed to indicate vomiting.

At this point, Wood says Rogers no longer moves, and an hour later a police officer enters the cell and removes the spit hood from Rogers’ motionless body. Then, 10 minutes later, emergency health services arrived and Rogers was pronounced dead at 1:53 a.m.

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The trial is supposed to last 10 days and testimony will resume at supreme court Thursday morning.