Ottawa

Montsion's lawyers call for halt to manslaughter trial

The defence lawyers for an Ottawa police officer charged in the death of Abdirahman Abdi have asked the court to either halt the trial or throw out key evidence.

Warning: Video contains violent and graphic images

Const. Daniel Montsion, centre, leaves the Ottawa courthouse alongside his legal team and Ottawa Police Association president Matt Skof, left, on Feb. 4, 2019. (Judy Trinh/CBC)

The defence lawyers for an Ottawa police officer charged in the death of Abdirahman Abdi have asked the court to either halt the trial or throw out key evidence.

The request stems from the Special Investigation Unit's (SIU) handling of the surveillance video that captured Const. Daniel Montsion's violent arrest of Abdi on July 24, 2016.

The video shows Montsion arrive on scene and punch Abdi before he and another officer push Abdi to the ground. Once Abdi was on the ground, Montsion punches him in the legs and head before the officers get him in handcuffs.

Abdi, 37, was pronounced dead in hospital one day after the arrest.

Montsion was charged with manslaughter, aggravated assault and assault with a weapon and has pleaded not guilty to all three counts.

WARNING: Video contains graphic content

3 years ago
5:51
A longer version of the video secured as digital evidence in the trial of Const. Daniel Montsion. It appears to show Abdirahman Abdi being kicked and punched by police officers in front of the apartment building at 55 Hilda St. 5:51

'Playback anomalies'

Parts of the video have been viewed in court, but none of it has been accepted as evidence.

The defence claims the evidence was mishandled by the SIU, depriving the court of more reliable evidence of the altercation between Abdi and Police.

Montsion was also deprived of his right to make "full answer and defence," the application states.

Over the course of the investigation, multiple copies of the video were created. The trial has focused on a low-quality 29-minute screen capture and a copy that appears to run at a slower speed.

The screen capture was the only version of the video secured as digital evidence before the trial. The original surveillance video and the slower version never made it to the SIU's central evidence registry and was not disclosed to the Crown and the defence until the day before the trial.

The Crown's own expert also believes the original file was corrupted when it was copied from the surveillance system, the defence said.

"The SIU should have been aware that the [video] suffered from playback anomalies, sloppy timing properties and inconsistent frame rates," the application states.

The Crown said it intends to file a counter application to quash Montsion's request, calling it frivolous. 

WARNING: Video contains graphic content

3 years ago
0:23
Two versions of the surveillance video at the centre of Const. Daniel Montsion's manslaughter trial shown side-by-side. The defence argues the video on the right appears slower and smoother than the version on the left, which was secured as digital evidence. The defence says the version on the right was shown to several expert witnesses, calling their testimony into question. 0:23

Technical problems could derail trial

In the first few week of the trial the court heard the video gave investigators trouble from the very beginning.

Forensic investigator David Robinson couldn't get it to copy to a DVD to be sent to the SIU's central registry.

Instead, he created a poor quality screen capture.

He asked his manager, Frank Kavcic, for help. Step by step, Kavcic showed Robinson how to export the video as an MP4 and managed to make a two-minute version showing the violent altercation between Abdi and police.

Robinson couldn't get it to work himself. After that, he forgot all about the files, including the copy that Kavcic had made.

Kavcic's version appears slower than the screen capture and, according to the defence,  downplays the force used by the other officer on scene.

It was shown to the pathologist and the blood spatter expert, according to testimony heard in court.

That means that if the judge decides to exclude the video from evidence, Edelson's charter application could have implications for the admissibility of their testimony as well.

If the charter application goes ahead, it likely won't be decided for weeks. 

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