Judge Criticizes Police Officer’s “False Testimony” in Drug Case

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Drug charges against three men have been dropped after an Ontario judge found that a Toronto police officer had been “deliberately misleading” in both his testimony and in his notes, as he attempted to “strengthen the case” against one of the men.

What Happened?

In 2014, the three men in question, Jason Jaggernauth, Jordan Davis, and Jimal Nembrand-Walker were charged with possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking and possession of the proceeds of crime, after police found them in a Scarborough apartment that contained multiple types of drugs and drug-related paraphernalia.

At the time of the arrest, police officers found several grams of crack on Davis and crack, powdered cocaine, and several other drugs in Nembrand-Walker’s pockets. No drugs were found on Jaggernauth.

Conflicting Testimony

In a pretrial hearing, the officer, Constable Bradley Trenouth, testified that he saw a large piece of crack fall from Jaggernauth when officers had him stand up from his chair. This testimony was backed up by the notes that the officer said he took at the time of the arrest. During the preliminary hearing, the officer also stated that he had picked up the piece of crack off the floor after forensic officers had taken photos of the scene. However, the photos taken do not include images of that specific piece of crack. When questioned about why the photos taken did not depict the crack, the officer claimed that it might be because the piece of crack had been stepped on or moved before the photos were taken.

In addition, at trial several months later, the officer told the court that he did not see the crack fall from Jaggernauth. Instead, he testified that he had found the piece of crack on the floor near Jaggernauth and “assumed” it had fallen from him.  At this time, the officer’s story about the photos of the crack also changed, and he told the court that there were no photos of the crack because he had already picked it up and put it in his pocket before the photos were taken.

The Decision

In her decision, Justice Katherine Corrick wrote that the officer had not found the crack near Jaggernauth, but rather, had “falsely attributed” the drugs to Jaggernauth. The charges against Jaggernauth were stayed. Because of the officer’s actions, Justice Corrick excluded the evidence gathered by him and other officers. As a result, Jaggernauth’s co-accused’s were also found not guilty.

Justice Corrick wrote, in her decision:

The false attribution of evidence to an accused’s possession, and false testimony by a police officer constitute precisely the type of state misconduct that undermines the integrity of the judicial process.

Justice Corrick further noted that the officer was “deliberately misleading” in both preparing his notes, and in his testimony at the preliminary hearing. She found it “unlikely” that an officer with eight years of police experience would pick up unwrapped drugs and put them in his pocket at a crime scene. Furthermore, if the officer had merely been mistaken during his pretrial testimony, he should have informed prosecutors before the case went to trial.

Justice Corrick criticized the officer’s actions stating:

It is difficult to imagine how public confidence can be maintained in the rule of law when police officers present false evidence against accused person… [o]ur justice system cannot function unless courts can rely on the willingness of witnesses to . . . tell the truth.

Potential Discipline for the Officer

Jaggernauth’s lawyer has recommended that an investigation be immediately opened into the officer’s conduct during the matter:

The bottom line is . . . an officer falsely attributed an exhibit to my client that never was on my client.

A Toronto police spokesperson said that she cannot confirm whether the officer will face any discipline. All police disciplinary matters are kept confidential until the officer in question has appeared before a police services tribunal.

If you have questions about your legal rights, whether during an investigation, arrest, or otherwise contact the criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP in Oshawa. Our firm and its predecessors have been protecting clients since 1992 and have significant experience with drug offences. Whatever the nature of your offence, we can help. Call us at 905-404-1947 or contact us online for a free consultation.