Bell's cellmate grilled at Strongquill trial
A jailhouse informant faced some tough questions at the trial of two people accused of killing RCMP Const. Dennis Strongquill.
Rose Ferguson was the cellmate of one of the accused, Laurie Bell. On Tuesday, Ferguson told the court that Bell said her boyfriend, Rob, and his brother, Danny, shot at a police officer in Russell, Man.
According to Ferguson, Bell was yelling for the brothers to "Kill him! Kill him!" as she sat in the backseat of the truck.
Ferguson says she had nothing to hide, nor any axes to grind, when she made her statement to police in February 2002. She says she asked for nothing in return, other than that her name be left off the statement out of fear of retribution.
Crown Prosecutor Bob Morrision says neither his office nor police promised Ferguson anything in exchange for her statement. Ferguson was released from jail a month later, but the prosecution says her release was not related to her statement.
The cross-examination of this witness was the longest and most aggressive in the first two weeks of this trial.
Justice Robert Menzies warned the jury before Ferguson even took the stand that they should be cautious about her testimony. Jailhouse informants are controversial; Thomas Sophonow was wrongly convicted of murder in Manitoba because of wrong information from a jailhouse informant.
For most of Wednesday, Brian Midwinter, Bell's lawyer, had Ferguson go point-by-point through her lengthy criminal record in Canada and the United States. Ferguson's soft voice rose several times when she was challenged.
She told the court she didn't read or hear about the shooting death of an RCMP officer before talking to Bell. That provoked disbelief from Midwinter, who asked how it was possible that an aboriginal woman from Manitoba, with family in law enforcement, wouldn't have heard about the killing. Strongquill was aboriginal.
Ferguson insisted she hadn't, and that in any newspapers she had contact with, she only looked at pages with crossword puzzles on them.
Midwinter also pointed out that a cousin of Ferguson's dated a relative of Strongquill. Ferguson said she didn't know that.