Nova Scotia

Accused killers have video chat about their cases before N.S. court hearing

Kaz Henry Cox and William Sandeson, both accused of first-degree murder, video chatted about their cases and the jails they're being held in prior to a court hearing Wednesday. Before the pandemic, inmates would never have the chance to interact like this in a courtroom.

Kaz Henry Cox and William Sandeson are both accused of first-degree murder

A courtroom at the Law Courts in Halifax is pictured. Kaz Henry Cox and William Sandeson, both accused of murder, had a chat via video link prior to a court hearing Wednesday. (Robert Short/CBC)

It's a bizarre situation only possible because of the pandemic: two men, each accused of first-degree murder, casually chatting about their cases and the jails they're being held in while awaiting the start of a court hearing Wednesday morning.

Neither Kaz Cox nor William Sandeson were actually in the courtroom. They were connected by video links from the Northeast Nova Scotia Correctional Facility in Pictou and the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility in Burnside.

Kaz Henry Cox is accused of killing Triston Michael Edward Reece in July 2019. Cox is also accused of being part of a brutal attack on a fellow inmate at the Burnside jail in December of last year. 

Cox is now being housed in the Pictou jail, but he told Sandeson he'd rather be back in Burnside.

"This is kindergarten," Cox said. "Really personal employees. Feel like they know you, right?"  

Sandeson responded that things have changed at Burnside since Cox was transferred.

"They got a bunch of Yarmouth staff up here now and that surprised me about how warm and fuzzy they are," Sandeson said.

"My first night here, they gently, gently, gently come to the door and ... 'Have a good night, Mr. Sandeson,' and then slowly, gently click the door."

William Sandeson is shown in 2016. He was convicted in the murder of Taylor Samson three years ago, but the Court of Appeal overturned that conviction. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

Prior to the pandemic, inmates would never have the chance to interact like this in a courtroom because each matter would be dealt with individually.

But Wednesday's hearing brought together lawyers and accused from several cases that are supposed to be dealt with in jury trials. Those trials have been postponed because of the pandemic.

Court staff had established video links to the jails prior to the formal start of proceedings, giving Cox and Sandeson the unique opportunity to interact.

Sandeson, a student at Dalhousie University's medical school, was convicted three years ago of killing fellow student Taylor Samson in August 2015. His conviction was overturned on appeal earlier this year and he's now awaiting a second trial.

Neither man represented by lawyers

Cox complained about the difficulty he said he's having in obtaining disclosure documents from the Crown.

"They're just taking advantage that I don't have counsel right now. And until I get all my disclosure, I'm not getting it," Cox said. 

"Well, I really recommend you don't hire a private investigator," Sandeson replied, laughing.

The Court of Appeal ordered a new trial for Sandeson based on an episode in his original trial when a private investigator hired by the defence went to police with new information.

Defence lawyers didn't learn of the investigator's about-face until in the middle of the trial. They asked for a mistrial, but the judge refused. That, said the Court of Appeal, was a mistake that warrants a new trial.

"And then they let that in, you know," Cox said, referring to the evidence the investigator provided to police. "They searched the apartment and all the other things ... they're beyond questionable. I feel for you." 

Sandeson's appeal had raised questions about the police search of his apartment, but the court did not address those concerns.

Neither Cox nor Sandeson are currently represented by lawyers.

Sandeson has approached noted Toronto defence lawyer James Lockyer to handle his second trial. An associate lawyer in Lockyer's firm told court Wednesday that he's meeting with Nova Scotia Legal Aid before deciding whether to take the case.

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About the Author

Blair Rhodes

Reporter

Blair Rhodes has been a journalist for more than 35 years, the last 27 with CBC. His primary focus is on stories of crime and public safety. He can be reached at blair.rhodes@cbc.ca

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