Ottawa judge stays 1st-degree murder charge over trial delay

The mother of Fouad Nayel says the justice system has failed her family after an Ottawa judge stayed a first-degree murder charge against the man accused of killing Nayel, saying the case took too long to get to trial.

Adam Picard was charged in the 2012 death of construction worker Fouad Nayel

Amine and Nicole Nayel had waited four years for the trial of a man charged with first-degree murder in the death of their son. On Tuesday, a judge ruled the delay was unreasonable and stayed the charges. (Simon Gardner/CBC)

The mother of Fouad Nayel says the justice system has failed her family after an Ottawa judge stayed a first-degree murder charge against the man accused of killing her son because the case took too long to get to trial.

Nicole Nayel had gone to court on Tuesday not knowing what to expect. But she was not expecting the man accused of killing her son to walk free.

"They had so much evidence ... and now it's down the drain," she said.

A day earlier, jury selection was set to begin in the first-degree murder trial of 33-year-old former Canadian soldier Adam Picard. But Ontario Superior Court Justice Julianne Parfett had adjourned the proceedings to consider an earlier request by defence counsel Lawrence Greenspon to stay the trial.

Greenspon had argued that, in light of the Supreme Court of Canada's new rules for what constituted a reasonable time for an accused to be tried, the four years it took to get Picard's case to trial violated his Charter rights to be tried within a reasonable time.

On Tuesday, Parfett reluctantly agreed and stayed the charges against Picard.

'I felt so numb'

"I felt so numb," said Nayel. "I didn't understand at first what she was saying, because I didn't expect this. I've been waiting so long [for] justice to get served and I end up shocked, shocked with the result, because I feel the system failed us big time."

Construction worker Fouad Nayel's body was found in a wooded area near Calabogie, Ont., months after he disappeared. (CBC)
Fouad Nayel was 28 years old when he disappeared in June 2012. The construction worker's car was later found in September and his body was discovered in November in a wooded area near Calabogie, Ont., about 100 kilometres west of Ottawa.

Following an autopsy, Ontario Provincial Police and Ottawa police determined foul play was involved in Nayel's death. Police told CBC News at the time they believed he was shot to death and that drugs played a role in the killing.

Picard was arrested and charged in December. He had served in the Canadian military in Afghanistan and was studying to be a chef at Le Cordon Bleu in Ottawa at the time of his arrest. He was also an acquaintance of Nayel.

Accused now free, pending any appeal

With Tuesday's decision, Picard was able to walk out of the courthouse after years in custody, said Greenspon.

He said his client is incredibly relieved to be able to return to his life and has maintained, from the beginning, that he was innocent of the charge.

Adam Picard was charged with murder in Fouad Nayel's death in December 2012. (CBC News)
Greenspon said to his knowledge it's the first time since the Supreme Court's decision this summer that a first-degree murder charge has been stayed in Ontario over unreasonable delays. 

"What the Supreme Court of Canada found was that there had developed a culture of complacency within the system and that cases were taking longer and longer to get to trial," he said.

The Nayel family blames the delays on Picard switching lawyers. But Greenspon says the Crown refused to expedite the case by reassigning its prosecutors.

The Crown has 30 days to appeal the decision.

Nayel, meanwhile, said she feels betrayed by the court.

"[It] feels so unfair for someone to walk away on the street after what he's done to us," she said.