Judge to hear arguments over admissibility of Crown evidence in murder trial

Prince Albert's Court of Queen's Bench. -- Herald file photo.

Crown and defence lawyers will present their arguments on Friday for why the court should accept or reject two videos of police interviews with Marrissa Bird as evidence in her first degree murder trial.

The court has already viewed three interviews recorded by Prince Albert police, but prosecutor Shawn Blackman said the Crown would only seek to have the first and last interviews—recorded in January 2018 and June 2018 respectively—included as evidence.

Blackman told the court the second interview, which was recorded after Bird was arrested in connection with an unrelated incident in April 2018, wasn’t necessary to prove the Crown’s case. There were also concerns about whether the video would even be accepted as evidence. Bird faces first degree murder charges in connection with the 2017 death of Duane Brett Ledoux in Prince Albert.

The court viewed that second interview on Wednesday. Unlike like the first interview, Bird was talkative and animated in response to police questions.

She told police she joined the Terror Squad street gang two years earlier, but was trying to get out because she wanted to protect her children. She also said she only met Ledoux twice before he died, and maintained the meeting held at the residence where his body was found was “just a party.” Bird also told investigators she was “f—ing scared” to talk about what happened that evening.

However, members of the Prince Albert Police Service who testified on Wednesday said they had concerns about whether Bird was sober during the interview. Sgt. Darren Androsoff, who was one of three officers involved in the arrest, told the court it’s possible Bird was impaired. A second officer, Const. Braden Blais, testified that Bird told police she had been smoking marijuana and drinking prior to her arrest.

“She was very upset (and) emotional,” Blais told the court.

On Thursday, Blackman told the court those concerns were among the reasons the Crown declined to submit the video into evidence. There were also questions about whether the interview should have happened at all. Bird was arrested during an investigation into an unrelated incident, and Blackman said the warrant may not have allowed police to question her as part of the Ledoux murder investigation.

The court viewed the third and final interview Wednesday afternoon and nearly all day Thursday. It showed Const. Lisa Simonson and lead investigator Insp. Craig Mushka interviewing an emotional Bird about the lead up to Ledoux’s death.

Bird declined to respond to most questions during the first half of the interview, telling police “I refuse to answer” when asked who was at the meeting and why gang members from Saskatoon were present.

However, Bird broke down after police later played witness statements identifying her as the shooter, and read one of her private Facebook messages sent roughly one hour after Ledoux’s death.

In the message, Bird writes that she’s “pretty sure that panned out the way we think it did,” and discusses plans to leave Prince Albert.

Police say Ledoux arrived at the party expecting to receive a one-minute beating, which started as soon as he entered the residence. However, they also say a period of a few hours likely passed before he was shot.

Simonson and Mushka asked at various points whether Bird was “put up to it” or somehow forced to shoot Ledoux. A sobbing Bird told police she “can’t say anything” and feared for her safety.

The video eventually shows her saying someone named Lenny passed her a gun while playing a game called “safety on, safety off.” Bird also told police there was a lot of drinking throughout the evening. When asked by Simonson if Ledoux’s death was a mistake, Bird broke into tears again.

A 35-year-old man named Lenny Daniels has already received an eight-year sentence for his role in Ledoux’s death. Two other have also been charged and sentenced in connection with the case.

Questions from the Crown and defence focused on how Bird was treated during her time in the interview room. The court heard that Bird was taking anti-depression medication at the time of her arrest, and defence lawyer Patrick McDougall asked police whether she had timely access to it.

Simonson testified that Blais had visited Pine Grove Correctional Centre to pick up the medication. Blais testified on Wednesday, but did not take the stand on Thursday.

McDougall also asked why police switched between a “soft room” and a “hard room” during the interviews. He also asked whether they thought having two officers involved in the interview was a pressure tactic designed to get Bird to confess.

Simonson conducted the interview alone at the beginning and end of the third video, with Mushka joining her when they played audio recordings from other witnesses and read out her private Facebook messages.

Both Simonson and Mushka denied that the setting was designed to pressure suspects, with Mushka saying the room names were “not the ideal terminology.” Both said the soft room was larger than the hard room, the latter of which was not big enough for three people.

Both officers said they experienced those types of interviews as part of their training. When asked if they felt pressured during the interview simulation, Simonson said “of course,” while Mushka said it was difficult to compare how someone feels in a training situation to real life.

The Marrissa Bird trial continues at 11 a.m. on Friday at the Court of Queen’s Bench in Prince Albert.

Duane Brett Ledoux was found dead in a Prince Albert residence on Aug. 16, 2017. Witnesses testified earlier in the trial that Ledoux joined the Terror Squad while in jail. Witnesses also testified that Ledoux was to receive a one-minute beating from fellow gang members for kissing a senior member’s girlfriend.

Police also recovered Facebook messages from Ledoux which show he expected to receive a beating when he visited a residence on the 800 block of 17th Street West a few days before police found his body.