VERNON - Internet searches made by the accused in a North Okanagan manslaughter case cannot be used against him in court because the evidence was unlawfully gathered by police, a judge ruled today.
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Arne Silverman says police overstepped the scope of a search warrant for Logan Scott’s cell phone during a 2014 investigation into the death of Armstrong woman Jillian McKinty, and therefore, the evidence cannot be admitted.
McKinty was found dead in her home Nov. 26, 2013. An upstairs neighbour made the discovery after she heard McKinty’s twin boys, aged five-and-a-half, yelling.
Scott, who was 31 years old at the time of his arrest in August 2014, faces a charge of manslaughter, and theft under $5,000 for allegedly stealing McKinty’s phone and laptop. He pleaded not guilty to both charges and is due to stand trial in Kelowna starting June 26.
Scott’s lawyers Glenn Verdurmen and Paul Danyliu made numerous arguments around charter rights and voluntariness during a lengthy voir dire hearing, which was used to determine the admissibility of evidence prior to Scott’s trial.
Justice Silverman found two breaches of Scott’s charter rights. The first was that police retained Scott’s cell phone for longer than the four hours the warrant allowed, and the second was that they obtained more data than they were authorized to.
The warrant permitted officers to search for images and videos of McKinty, and text messages and call history from specific dates. While looking for that data, investigators also obtained Internet search history that included Scott querying, ‘What happens to someone who is choked to death’ and ‘Why are there so many unsolved murders in B.C.' Those searches were used by investigators to get Scott talking during a series of interviews.
Despite the two separate breaches, Justice Silverman chose only to restrict the Internet searches from the trial, not the overall evidence gathered from the cell phone. He said the matter of the expired warrant did not bring the administration of justice into question.
Because investigators made reference to Scott’s Internet searches during a series of taped police interviews, the videos will have to be vetted prior to the trial.
Silverman rejected a number of other arguments made by the defence, including how Scott’s phone was initially seized, how police went about gathering a blood sample from him, and the voluntariness of his statements to police. In those cases, Silverman said officers did their jobs in accordance with the law.
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