Trial of 2 former London jailors ends with acquittal, mistrial

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After two days of deliberations a London jury has acquitted former Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre operations manager Stephen Jurkus in the 2013 murder of Adam Kargus, who was beaten to death by his cellmate Anthony George. 

While Jurkus was able to walk away a free man on Tuesday night, the jury was deadlocked over the fate of former guard Leslie Lonsbary, ending the proceeding with the declaration of a mistrial. 

The dramatic ending follows three weeks of testimony that heard from jail guards, inmates and law enforcement officials inside London’s notorious jail. 

Kargus, who was serving a 90-day sentence for fraud, was beaten to death on October 31, 2013 by George, who was serving time for aggravated assault and had a long history of violence, most of it triggered by alcohol. 

Former guard thought Anthony George was ‘drunk’

Fomer EMDC guard Greg Langford seen here leaving the London, Ont. courthouse on Jan. 17, 2019 is a key Crown witness. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

Lonsbary was the guard on-duty the night Kargus was killed and was responsible for cell three in unit six left, where the two men were locked in a cell together overnight. 

Greg Langford, who was the guard Lonsbary was relieving that night, testified in court that just before he went home for the night he had warned both accused that there may have been alcohol in the men’s shared cell that night. 

Langford was originally charged with Jurkus and Lonsbary, but the charges were dropped after a preliminary hearing in 2015. 

During the preliminary hearing Langford said he thought George was « drunk » but later recanted in front of the jury, saying he couldn’t be sure. 

Langford testified in front of the jury that he wrote « possible brew » on a white board inside the office where Lonsbary worked that night while saying it out loud before he went to inform a supervisor. 

A brew, the court heard, is an improvised alcoholic concoction created by inmates using fermented fruit, bread and sugar that can be quite potent.   

Langford told the court he told Jurkus, who responded that there was no room segregation and George would « have to sleep it off. » 

William McVeigh, a provincial corrections investigator testified that jailhouse records show Jurkus was wrong. There was room in segregation on Halloween and had been since 10 a.m. that morning. 

Frenzy of violence

Adam Kargus, 29, was beaten to death by his cellmate Anthony George after they were locked in a cell together on Halloween in 2013. The jail’s guard and nurse suspected George was impaired that night. (Deb Abrams)

The jury also heard from inmates who were serving time at the jail that Kargus pleaded and screamed for his life as George beat him in a frenzy of violence inside their locked cell. 

Robert Graham, an inmate who was in the cell on the floor below, testified through tears that it was unlike anything he’d ever heard. 

He described the audible sounds of someone screaming for their life and told the jury he could feel the vibrations from the pounding from the floor below. 

Graham said while he had no access to a clock from his cell, he would guess that the pandemonium on the floor above lasted about an hour and waxed and waned a number of times throughout. 

Graham testified he knew the beating was over when he heard moaning and groaning coming from the cell above as if someone was being sexually gratified. 

The jury watched surveillance video that showed Lonsbary stayed in a small office and never did his security sweeps until the beating was over, which provincial regulations require about every half hour. 

Guards unable to revive Kargus

William McVeigh is an Inspector with Ontario’s department of corrections. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

The only time he left his office, the video showed, was to briefly look out into the hallway before he closed his office door. 

Guards didn’t discover Kargus’ broken body until almost 10 a.m. the next day, after George had wrapped it in a bed sheet and dragged it, along with a mattress into the section of the jail’s communal shower.

Guards were unable to revive him.  

The court heard how the pathologist who examined Kargus’ body identified more than one possible deadly injury on the 29-year-old’s body and that had Kargus survived, he surely « would have been in a vegetative state. » 

Neither Jurkus nor Lonsbary testified in court and their defence lawyers called no evidence in the case. 

Instead their lawyers argued that their clients didn’t have enough information about what was happening that night, with Lonsbary’s lawyers arguing he wasn’t aware of the presence of alcohol and that he didn’t hear the beating inside the office. 

Case raises more questions about EMDC

Anthony George spoke with The Fifth Estate after he pleaded guilty to the second-degree murder of fellow inmate Adam Kargus. (CBC)

Jurkus’ defense team acknowledged while he was told there may be a « possible brew, » Adam Kargus was never mentioned and Jurkus believed George was alone in the cell that night. 

The court also heard from the defence through cross-examination of many of the Crown’s witnesses with the suggestion that the standard of care at the London jail is extremely low, with little training for guards, who often improvise their daily job duties instead of following provincial regulations. 

The case raises more questions about the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre, which has been nicknamed « the Devil’s Playground » and has one of the highest death rates among inmates in the country.

A number of families of inmates who died the jail and watched the three-week trial unfold say they’ll continue to push for reforms and justice for the inmates who’ve died while behind bars. 

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Mistrial declared in Dennis Oland’s murder retrial over ‘improper’ background checks on jurors

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A Court of Queen’s Bench judge has declared a mistrial in Dennis Oland’s murder retrial after the Crown became aware of « improprieties » related to the jury selection process.

The jury has been dismissed and the Oland’s retrial for the murder of his father will continue by judge alone. 

The body of Richard Oland, 69, was discovered face down in a pool of blood in his Saint John office the morning of July 7, 2011. He had suffered 45 sharp- and blunt-force blows to his head, neck and hands.

A jury found his only son, Dennis, guilty in December 2015, but the New Brunswick Court of Appeal overturned the conviction in October 2016 and ordered a new trial, citing an error in the trial judge’s instructions to the jury.

The defence asked last year that the retrial be heard by a judge alone, but the Crown refused to give the required consent and Morrison denied the application.

More to come.

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