New Brunswick

Case of Dorchester prison guards charged in inmate's death adjourned until March

Two correctional officers charged in connection with the 2015 death of Matthew Hines at Dorchester Penitentiary have had their case adjourned for a month.

Alvida Ross, 48 and Mathieu Bourgoin, 31 are charged with manslaughter and criminal negligence causing death

Matthew Hines, 33, died in custody of the Dorchester Penitentiary on May 27, 2015. (CBC)

Two correctional officers charged in connection with the 2015 death of Matthew Hines at Dorchester Penitentiary have had their case adjourned for a month.

Mathieu Bourgoin, 31, and Alvida Ross, 48, are charged with manslaughter and criminal negligence causing the death of Hines.

They have not yet entered pleas.

They were set to make their first appearance in Moncton provincial court on Monday. But neither Bourgoin nor Ross came to court in person, sending their lawyers on their behalf. 

Bourgoin is represented by Alison Ménard, and Ross has hired Michel DesNeiges. 

Both lawyers asked Judge William McCarroll for an adjournment because they haven't received disclosure yet.

That disclosure, Crown prosecutor Marie-Claude McIntyre said, is "quite voluminous." About 6,000 pages of evidence is stored on a USB key. 

The case will be back in court on March 28 at 9:30 a.m.

Ménard couldn't say whether her client might enter a plea on that date.

"There's really no way of knowing without looking at the disclosure," she said.

"That's really the first step."

She declined comment when asked how Bourgoin is doing.

The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, which represents the two guards, declined an interview request on Monday but made a statement.

"The union is fully supporting its two members in regards to this case," spokesperson Katerine Desgroseilliers wrote in an email.

"As it's before the courts, we have no specific comments at this time."

Hines family in court

Matthew Hines poses with his sisters. His family was initially given false information about Hines's death. (CBC)

Several members of the Hines family travelled from Cape Breton and filled the second row of courtroom 8. 

Outside the courthouse, the family's lawyer, Julie Kirkpatrick, said Hines was raised in a family "that believes in Canadian institutions and respects the process of the court."

She said it was important for them to be in court for the guards' first appearance.

"They appreciate a first appearance is just the beginning," Kirkpatrick said.

"But for them, they will be here each and every time the matter is before the court because they believe the process requires that."

On Monday, the lawyers representing the two guards said the case would likely proceed in French. 

Kirkpatrick said that is "a concern" for Hines's family members, who do not speak French and wouldn't be able to understand the proceedings. 

Altercation with guards

Hines was 33 years old when he was pronounced dead just after midnight on May 27, 2015, less than two hours after an altercation with guards at Dorchester Penitentiary.

The guards beat and repeatedly pepper sprayed Hines after he refused to return to his cell.

At one point, a correctional officer pepper sprayed Hines in the face four times in less than a minute.

As he lay on a decontamination shower floor, where he was taken to clean off the pepper spray, Hines uttered what may have been his final words. 

"Please, please," he said. "I'm begging you, I'm begging you."

Charges laid in January 

Matthew Hines was serving the final months of a prison sentence for robbing a bank when he died. (Steve Lawrence/CBC)

New Brunswick RCMP initially ruled out foul play in Hines's death.

But that changed in 2016, when the case was transferred out of province to Nova Scotia RCMP. Police have said a new piece of evidence came to their attention, but it's not clear what that evidence is.

Charges were laid against Bourgoin and Ross in January.

The two guards were placed on administrative leave until mid-February, when they were assigned "other, non-custodial duties," according to Correctional Service Canada.

The correctional service initially released false information to the public, saying Hines was "found in need of medical attention" and staff "immediately" performed CPR. Neither of those things were true.

An internal board of investigation report shows correctional staff were with Hines throughout the incident and prison medical staff did not give him any "treatment."

Correctional Service Canada apologized for the false information, but has never explained why it happened.

One staff member was fired, while three other employees were disciplined as a result of what happened to Hines.

It's not clear whether Bourgoin or Ross were among the employees who were disciplined.