First-degree murder charge in prison slaying stayed due to lengthy delay

An Edmonton judge has cited lengthy delays behind the reason he stayed a first-degree murder charge against a former inmate of the Edmonton Institution.

Judge determined there were no exceptional circumstances that warranted five-year delay

An Edmonton Judge ruled the accused in a prison murder case was denied his charter rights by a lengthy delay of his trial.

An Edmonton judge has cited lengthy delays for staying a first-degree murder charge against a former inmate of the Edmonton Institution, in the so-called "fight club" stabbing death.

Lance Matthew Regan's trial for the 2011 stabbing death of fellow inmate Mason Tex Montgrand, was to start next Monday, more than five years after he was charged.

In his decision, Justice Stephen Hillier ruled Regan's constitutional right to be tried within a reasonable time "has been violated."

In court documents, Hillier cites the recent landmark Supreme Court of Canada ruling of R. v. Jordan that established a new framework (the Jordan framework) to determine whether a criminal trial has been unreasonably delayed by exceptional circumstances or case complexity.

The ruling sets out a "presumptive ceiling" of a 30-month delay, where the burden falls on the Crown to prove any further delay was a result of case complexity or unavoidable circumstances.

'Second chance at a normal life'

Regan's lawyer, Chris Terepocki, says he is "ecstatic" by the ruling.

"It was a brave decision," he said from his office in Abbotsford, B.C.

He says it's the "first echo" of the Jordan framework and there is a lesson to be learned by the entire legal system.

"Underfunding is certainly part of the picture in here, and I think courts and Crown prosecutors, defence and everyone is sort of scrambling to adjust to this new paradigm.

"Ultimately 62½ months went by. That's an excessive amount of time and it was problematic."

Terepocki believes the ruling will give his client "a second chance at a normal life." 

Regan is currently incarcerated at an Abbotsford institution and is scheduled to be released in about 18 months.

'Fight-club' culture

Terepocki said Reagan is part of a group of inmates suing the federal maximum-security penitentiary in Edmonton.

The civil suit alleges guards put spit and feces in their food, regularly beat them and ran a sadistic prisoner fight club.

The so called "fight-club" culture would have formed the bases of his defence had Regan's case gone to trial, Terepocki said.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

According to court documents, since Regan was charged in 2011, he dismissed two lawyers, and had three separate trial dates scheduled.

At one point there was a 12½-month span between Regan's first and second trial dates.

Hillier ruled that while the Crown and defence were responsible for some of the delays in the process, the net delay exceeded the 30-month ceiling established by the Jordan framework. 

Hillier determined there were no "exceptional circumstances," that warranted such a lengthy delay for Regan.

Veronica Jubinville, spokesperson for Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley said in an email statement the minister would not comment on the ruling during the 30-day period in which the Crown could appeal the decision.