Justin Bourque's videotaped confession to murdering three RCMP officers and an audio clip of a wounded officer screaming for help after she was shot are among more than 100 pieces of evidence that must be made public, a New Brunswick judge has ordered.
David Smith, the Chief Justice of Court of Queen's Bench of New Brunswick, wrote in his decision Friday that "there is no evidence submitted by the Crown or counsel for the Defence which would demonstrate that it is in the interest of the administration of justice to ban the video of the offender's confession or to ban the exhibits …."
New Brunswick Crown prosecutors and Mr. Bourque's defence counsel, David Lutz, had tried to suppress certain pieces of evidence used during the 24-year-old Moncton man's sentencing hearing in October, including the four-hour taped confession, arguing it could cause harm to the community.
The Globe and Mail was part of a media consortium, including CTV, the CBC, The Canadian Press, Global News and New Brunswick News, that successfully fought the suppression of the evidence.
Media lawyer David Coles argued last month, during a day-long hearing, that the "norm" is that the court is open, and it is up to the Crown and Mr. Lutz to persuade the judge that the principle of an open court and the Charter right to freedom of the press needs to be diminished. "That burden is a substantial one," Mr. Coles wrote in his brief to the court.
Last June, Mr. Bourque terrorized the New Brunswick city for more than a day: Dressed in camouflage and heavily armed, he went on a shooting rampage that left the three officers dead and two others wounded.
He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison without being eligible for parole for 75 years. It is the harshest sentence in Canada since the 1960's when the death penalty was still in use.
After his sentence, the Crown said it wanted to keep certain pieces of evidence out of the public view, although they had been shown in an open court. The video confession is chilling, with Mr. Bourque describing in detail how he killed the RCMP officers, and that he specifically targeted police officers and not civilians.
The Crown asked that items, including a photo of the "duty shirt" worn by Constable Fabrice Gevaudan, be kept private because it had his blood on it. In addition, the Crown asked that a photo of his "duty vest" at the location where other officers were performing CPR on him be kept from the public.
The Crown also wanted to keep out of the public arena various transmissions from police radios, including what is described in court documents as "Audio of Cst. Darlene Goguen saying that she's been shot in the head and she is heard screaming." Or, "Audio of Cst. Dave Ross is saying that he has eyes on Justin Bourque and is about to take him down." Constable Ross was killed by Mr. Bourque. Mr. Coles said Friday that the judge's order is "affirmation that the court recognizes the public has a right to see the exhibits upon which it considers when it makes its decision."
"If that is to be denied and the exhibits are to be sealed there really has to be significant evidence that releasing them is going to jeopardize the administration of justice and mere personal preferences and understandable personal desire not to see these exhibits or to hear about them anymore is enough," he said. "People have to be able to review this material in order to decide whether the courts are functioning properly."