Justice Gerald Allbright decided this morning that Douglas Hales' videotaped confession to Saskatoon police is admissible in his first degree murder trial.
The Crown's case is closed. Defence plans to call more witnesses today.
When Douglas Hales was arrested and charged with first-degree murder on August 10, 2008, the Crown says Saskatoon police gave him plenty of time to call a lawyer, and to think about his situation before talking with major crimes investigators.
Three days earlier, Hales had described strangling 25-year-old Daleen Bosse to undercover RCMP officers. He drew a map indicating where he'd burned the Saskatoon mother's remains, then rode along with two undercover agents to show them the site, near Warman.
Yesterday, defence lawyer Bob Hrycan suggested there was 'abundant evidence' of improper coercion during that sting, and argued that Hales' subsequent confession should be disregarded.
Supreme Court of Canada's ruling in Oickle case referenced heavily
Justice Allbright spent more than an hour and a half on Thursday morning explaining the reasoning for his decision, reiterating several times that the Crown must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Hales' confession of guilt was given freely.
Throughout the explanation, Allbright said the heart of his decision was founded on the findings of the Supreme Court of Canada's majority ruling in the 2000 Oickle case. Allbright explained that "voluntariness is the touchstone of a confessions rule."
Allbright reviewed pages of transcribed conversations between Hales' and police, both from when the accused was and was not in police custody.
Throughout, the judge often read excerpts aloud to the court, commenting on how the various parts related to his decision. Ultimately, Allbright said the transcripts illustrated a metamorphosis that Hales went through upon realizing "the dream he had been living, was just a dream," at the moment he was arrested for the first degree murder of Daleen Bosse.
Allbright said these parts of the recorded conversations ultimately revealed the true character of Hales and the non-confrontational methods police used while interviewing him in their custody.
Hearkening back to the Oickle ruling as he presented his final decision, Justice Allbright took the court through the established precedent's criteria needed to prove an admission of guilt is in fact in inadmissible:
- During Hales' taped, in-custody confession did he speak under the presence of police threats or promises?
- Did Hales confess under the confines of police oppression?
- Was police trickery used during the in-custody interview?
Allbright said he believes the answer to all of these questions is no. He also told the court that he believes Hales was aware that what he told police in the interview could and would be used against him in the courts, and therefore that he possessed an "operating mind."
For all of these reasons, Allbright said he found the evidence.
Hales 'easily manipulated'
Hales was jobless in 2008, having just moved to White Fox with his common-law wife and infant son. Over the next three months of running errands for a fictitious criminal organization, Hrycan said the RCMP deliberately isolated a 'vulnerable individual' who came to rely on them financially and emotionally.
"Suddenly he was somebody, whereas before he was nobody," said Hrycan. ""It was a hopeless, helpless dynamic. It was almost romantic in nature."
In a profanity-laced audio tape, Hales is first heard telling one of the agents about killing Daleen Bosse during a road trip. A few weeks later, believing he stood to earn $22,000 on a 'big job' with the gang, Hales was told he'd first have to be screened by the boss.
"Not talking about these issues was never offered as an option to Mr. Hales," noted Hrycan. "Leaving the hotel room was never offered as an option."
Hrycan argued that after his arrest, Hales was in emotional shock, and could not cope with the two-hour Saskatoon police interrogation.
"He was easily manipulated and he was manipulated in that interrogation room," said Hrycan. He said combined with the sting operation, police questions "bordered on entrapment."
"Probably only one person knew exactly where [Bosse's] remains would be," Justice Allbright reminded Hrycan. He also noted the Supreme Court has endorsed the so-called 'Mr. Big' sting as a legitimate police procedure.
The Crown refuted Hrycan's arguments, noting that no evidence was presented in the trial that suggested Hales was threatened or offered inducements in exchange for a confession.