Nova Scotia’s highest court has reserved its decision in the case of a man convicted of killing an off-duty police officer and dumping her body under a Halifax bridge.
Lawyers for the Crown and Christopher Garnier, 31, argued before the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal on Tuesday.
Garnier was convicted of second-degree murder in a jury trial in December of last year. He killed Catherine Campbell, 36, after meeting her at a downtown Halifax bar. Their encounter was captured on the bar’s security cameras and played for the jury during his trial.
The pair ended up at an apartment in north-end Halifax. About 45 minutes after they arrived there, security cameras mounted on neighbouring buildings showed Garnier wandering around outside. He eventually returned to the apartment with a green bin. Garnier placed Campbell’s body in the green bin and wheeled it through the streets until he dumped her in a wooded area under the Halifax approaches to the Macdonald Bridge.
It wasn’t until days later when Campbell failed to report for work in Truro, N.S., where she worked as a police officer that police started looking for her. They were able to reconstruct most of her final movements using the various security videos that were played for the jury during Garnier’s trial.
Police arrested Garnier after he returned to the area where he dumped Campbell’s body. He was interrogated for 8½ hours before admitting details of how Campbell died.
But his lawyer, Roger Burrill, said that interrogation should not have been ruled inadmissible. He told the three-member appeal panel that more than 40 times during the interrogation, Garnier tried to invoke his right to remain silent, but police kept pressuring him to talk.
“What it is, is a beating down of the detainee’s will such that he doesn’t make a meaningful choice at the time in which he speaks to the officers because the officers have said to him: now is the time,” Burrill said.
He said the jury should also have been instructed on the risk of false confessions, the notion that after hours under police pressure, Garnier was telling them what he thought they wanted to hear, rather than what actually happened.
Burrill said Garnier was emotionally vulnerable during that interrogation.
But Crown prosecutor Mark Scott countered that Garnier was fully engaged with police during the interrogation, at times confirming their comments, at other times disputing them. Scott also pointed out that despite being trained as a firefighter, Garnier did not administer CPR, call 911 or call for help when he saw Campbell’s lifeless body.
Garnier’s conviction for second-degree murder carried an automatic life sentence. Justice Joshua Arnold set parole ineligibility at 13½ years. Burrill told the Court of Appeal that the parole period is too long.
In addition to the murder conviction, the jury also found Garnier guilty of interfering with human remains for the way he moved Campbell’s body in the green bin. He is not appealing his conviction on that charge.
The judges gave no indication when they will rule in this case.
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