Robbery trial ends when accused dies in Barton jail of a suspected overdose

Charges against a Hamilton man on trial for robbing a local pot dispensary were withdrawn in court on Monday, but Nathaniel Golden wasn’t there in the prisoner’s box to hear that his own trial had ended.

Nathaniel Golden's death is the 4th since 8 overdose deaths examined in sweeping coroner's inquest

Nathaniel Golden, 28, died of a suspected overdose inside the Barton Street jail over the weekend. (Jenna Campbell)

Charges against a Hamilton man on trial for robbing a local pot dispensary were withdrawn in court on Monday, but Nathaniel Golden wasn't there in the prisoner's box to hear that his own trial had ended.

Golden died in the Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre early Saturday of a suspected overdose, marking the latest in string of deaths coming out of the jail. He had been in custody for almost a year after being denied bail.

Inmates inside those walls keep dying — so much so that a massive coroner's inquest into eight overdose deaths was called last year, where a jury made 62 recommendations on how to reform the Barton Street jail.

Four more people have died since the cutoff date for that inquest, with Golden as the latest.

Now, yet another grief-stricken family wants to know how and why this could possibly happen inside a provincial institution.

"What did my son die from? Where was he when he died? Why can't anyone give me answers?" said Golden's father, Ian.

"I just get a letter," he said, clutching a note from the jail read out moments before in court, notifying the judge of Golden's death.

"That's all I get."

Tragic circumstances

Golden was arrested after a robbery at the Blue Ox Dispensary in Hess Village early last year.

Hamilton police alleged that two masked men ran into the dispensary, assaulted a security guard and stole cash and product.

Golden's lawyer, Vikram Singh, told CBC News that it was a "largely circumstantial case."

Golden had three children: Kiarah, middle, Makayla, centre right, and Nataeya, right. (Jenna Campbell)

Golden's family maintains that he was totally innocent. The trial's evidence was close to finished, with Justice Bernd Zabel set to deliver a decision shortly.

"These are very tragic circumstances," Zabel said in court.

Jenna Campbell, who is the mother of Golden's youngest child, cried softly in the courtroom as the charges were withdrawn.

"He was very gentle and soft," she said. "He was a teddy bear. He would do anything for me."

Campbell's father Stuart felt similarly.

If he wasn't in jail, he would still be alive.- Stuart Campbell

"He was honest, hardworking and loyal," he said. "He was a gentle giant."

Campbell said he and his daughter were under no illusions about Golden's past, as he did have trouble with police.

"He wasn't an angel — until he met her," Campbell said, pointing to his daughter. He said Golden had been working with him for about a year on construction jobs.

"He was building a new life and a new home with his daughter."

Now, Jenna Campbell is trying to figure out how to explain to her young daughter that her father is gone.

"How do you do that?" she said.

"We have no answers," Stuart Campbell said. "And we have no idea how to get them.

"If he wasn't in jail, he would still be alive."

Inquest delayed for years

In an emailed statement, Ministry of Community Safety and Corrections spokesperson Brent Ross confirmed that an inmate died at the Barton Street jail on Jan. 5, but would give no other information.

"Given this matter is the subject of multiple investigations, it would be inappropriate to provide further comment," he said.

Ross did not immediately answer questions about the jury's recommendations from last year's inquest, and if any of those had actually been implemented at the jail.

Those recommendations included limiting the number of inmates allowed in a cell, possible random searches of staff and having every guard carry life-saving naloxone, which helps reverse overdoses.

The recommendations from a jury in a coroner's inquest are not legally binding — but the institution can choose to adopt them.

The inquest into the deaths that happened in the jail between 2012 and 2016 was delayed for years, before finally happening last spring.

According to a Hamilton Spectator report, responding parties, including the ministry that oversees the jail, had six months to respond to the jury's recommendations.

Those answers were postponed another six months because of a paperwork delay.

adam.carter@cbc.ca

About the Author

Adam Carter

Reporter, CBC Hamilton

Adam Carter is a Newfoundlander who now calls Hamilton home. He enjoys a good story and playing loud music in dank bars. You can follow him on Twitter @AdamCarterCBC or drop him an email at adam.carter@cbc.ca.