Justice R. Dan Cornell held court at the Sault Ste. Marie Courthouse today –literally and figuratively.
The family of Wesley Hallam, whose decapitated and dismembered body was discovered on January 11th, 2011 along Landslide Road in a ditch near Cold Water Creek, returned to court today along with the three co-accused in his death – Dylan Jocko, Ronald Mitchell and Eric Mearow. In March 2011, Sault Ste. Marie Police concluded their search of a garbage dump in Dafter, Michigan, just south of the Sault Michigan/Sault Ontario border, where parts of Wesley’s dismembered body were also recovered.
Sault Ste. Marie Police determined that Wesley Hallam, was killed on January 8th, 2011 at a well-attended house party at 30 Wellington East in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.
Today counsel for the co-accused appeared before Justice Cornell to argue two applications submitted during pre-trial motions. A publication ban- five and a half years in effect, prevents the reporting on details of any applications before the Bench as well as evidence presented in the preliminary hearing.
So, what can we talk about today? Well…
Justice Cornell settled upon the Bench today, most irritated with the tardy arrival, by an hour, of Anik Morrow- defence counsel for Ronald Mitchell. Replying to Justice Cornell’s stern reproach when he declared that Morrow had inconvenienced everyone with her delay, Morrow was matter-of-fact and unfazed stating her frustration with crummy scheduling and an inability to navigate the Toronto 5 o’clock traffic crush to catch her flight to the Sault the night before. Cornell was tight lipped, casting a gaze across his specks before laying out the ground rules of his courtroom –everyone is to be prompt, all will listen with courtesy, only one lawyer on their feet at a time, and reinforcing many times that he intended to make good use of this time.
It is obvious that Cornell runs a tight ship and even Crown attorney, J. David MacKenzie (Thunder Bay) –assisting Crown Attorney, Kelly Weeks, was admonished for his mumbling at the onset of the day. Alas, the press also sat up a bit straighter in the long shadow of Cornell’s governance.
Anik Morrow, representing Ron Mitchell, hails from Toronto. She is not a newcomer to the Sault courts and has previously defended locally accused individuals. Ariel Herscovitch, an associate of Derstine Penman in Toronto, has been assisting Jennifer Penman, counsel for Eric Mearow, throughout the preliminary hearing. Bruce Willson, of Willson Carter in Sault Ste. Marie, is serving as defense for Dylan Jocko.
The late morning start began with a thorough grilling of the first witness on one of the two applications presented to the judge today by Herscovitch. At the end of the day Morrow had her crack at the same witness receiving frequent ‘redirection’ from Justice Cornell. Prompts from the judge that defence counsel was not to “plow the same ground” that co-defence covered, and refraining from “repeating evidence” presented by the witness to the same witness, were frequent reminders from Cornell to Morrow. Morrow, who has demonstrated a tireless approach over half a decade on this case, did not back down on her points. At the end of day one, Cornell acquiesced to Morrow’s sinewy focus. Bruce Willson, was behaved, sitting quietly behind his colleagues, occasionally yawning and rubbing his face and admiring the fine architecture of Courtroom 1.
The three co-accused were subdued today, somewhat uncharacteristic of their behaviour in the prisoner box over the course to this lengthy hearing. Mitchell appeared wearing a grey and lime green nylon hoodie, Jocko in an oversized red plaid shirt and black rimmed glasses and Mearow in a black hoodie, head shaven but for a little ponytail of three braids spouting from the top centre of his head.
Sandra Hallam, mother of Wesley, was accompanied by family today, appearing strong, collected and weary all at once.
Six beefy officers of the Sault Ste. Marie Police Emergency Services Unit, were strategically located throughout the courtroom, and in the courthouse halls, one witness, long awaiting their turn in the witness box, withered away, looking in desperate need of refreshment.
The pre-trial applications have been scheduled before the Court until Wednesday, June 29th, 2016. Though a publication ban is in effect, this hearing is open to the public.