Five accused in Quinte West murder make brief court appearances

The Quinte Consolidated Courthouse, which houses the Ontario Court of Justice, in Belleville. Photo via the Ministry of the Attorney General on Flickr.

All five people accused in the murder of 17-year-old Kiean Stoddard last month, appeared before Justice of the Peace Leona Dombrowsky in Belleville’s Ontario Court of Justice Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024. It was a packed docket and Dombrowsky warned there would be little to no time for break-out rooms or phone calls between the legal counsel and clients in court today.

Harold Russel, age 44, appeared first. He looked much older than his years and was wearing orange coveralls when he began his video appearance from Central East Detention Centre (CEDC) where he is being held. His manner was chaotic as he loudly explained his attempts to secure counsel to Dombrowsky, interrupting the agents of the court a number of times. His matter was adjourned until later this month.

Next came Kadijah Courneyea and Courtney Morgan. Both women appeared separately from Quinte Detention Centre’s video booth. Neither have yet settled on a representative defence lawyer and they too were adjourned until late February.

Aaron Ryan appeared in the afternoon from CEDC. He has a brown brush cut. His speech was slow and depressed. He too is still working on obtaining a specific lawyer. He asked Dombrowsky for advice on how to proceed. This frustrated the Justice of the Peace who explained tersely “I’m not a lawyer, its not for me to give legal advice.” She asked for Duty Council to meet with Ryan in a Zoom breakout room despite her earlier warning.

Last of all came the matter of Steven Courneyea. The 26-year-old’s appearance was uneventful and he too was ordered to return late in February.

All five matters are subject to a publication ban under Section 517 of the Criminal Code of Canada. An order under this section bans the publication of information arising during a bail hearing, as well as the reasons given by the judge until the accused is discharged or, if they are ordered to stand trial, the trial has ended. 

However, there are things the media can make public. In a 2010 case involving the Toronto Star, the Supreme Court’s decision pointed out, “It is worth noting that the mandatory publication ban provided for in s. 517 is not an absolute ban either on access to the courts or on publication. The provision only prohibits the publication of evidence adduced, information given, representations made, and reasons given by the justice at a bail hearing. But the media can publish the identity of the accused, comment on the facts and the offence that the accused has been charged with, and that a bail application has been made, as well as report on the outcome of the application. Journalists are also not prevented from informing the public of the legal conditions attached to the release of the accused.”

Quinteist will continue to provide updated coverage of this matter as more information becomes available.

One thought on “Five accused in Quinte West murder make brief court appearances

  • This all sounds rather appalling.

    The video link, although used everywhere these days, cannot actually fulfill the requirement of habeas corpus — bring out the body. And it provides no protection for the accused in the event of ill-treatment in the place they are being held.

    The attempt of the Justice of the Peace to hustle the matter along by announcing that the accused would be given little opportunity to consult lawyers or duty counsel by phone during their appearance would also seem to undermine the basic rights of the accused persons.

    And last, but not least, the continuing use of Justices of the Peace in our criminal courts, people who are not required to be lawyers, or, in fact, to have any legal training, when they are appointed at the whim of the party in power, makes no sense. There is no shortage of lawyers who would be willing to help oversee the Courts. (The only place this does make sense is, perhaps in the appointment of Indigenous Justices of the Peace in more isolated places that are home to First Nations.)

    So when the Justice of the Peace says she is not a lawyer, she is not to be doubted. She has probably been given a short course or two after her appointment, and I notice in the sample application form that applicants for the position are advised to sit in on a couple of court cases prior to applying.

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