Admissibility of killing confession argued in Kelowna court

Was confession voluntary?

One of the men accused of killing Esa Carriere in downtown Kelowna during the 2018 Canada Day celebrations is back in custody, after he failed to show up at his trial Wednesday. But the trial will likely be delayed through to September as a result.

Nathan Truant and Noah Vaten were charged with the manslaughter of 23-year-old Esa Carriere, close to seven months after Carriere was fatally stabbed near the Queensway bus loop on the evening of July 1, 2018.

The two mens' trial began in February of this year, but it went longer than expected, and after a four-month break, the trial picked up again on Monday. While the trial was scheduled to wrap up Friday, Truant never showed up on Wednesday, and Justice Alison Beames issued a warrant for his arrest.

Truant has since been taken into custody, but having lost a full day of trial due to his absence, the trial won't be finished by this week. And with scheduling conflicts for Justice Beames through August, the trial likely won't pick back up until September.

Through trial last winter, the Crown said Vaten had delivered a fatal stab wound to Carriere's chest during a group attack on the 23-year-old. When Vaten was arrested in Manitoba the following January, he told police he had blacked out from cocaine and alcohol on the night in question, and he didn't remember what had happened. But after two days of questioning, Vaten confessed to the killing.

During trial Thursday, a voir dire was held to determine the admissibility of Vaten's confession, with Vaten's counsel arguing the confession was not “voluntary.”

Vaten did not speak with a lawyer when he was arrested on Jan. 25, 2019 at his mother's house in Winnipegosis, Manitoba, but police offered him the opportunity on a number of occasions.

Crown prosecutor Colin Forsyth told the court police kept asking Vaten about speaking to a lawyer, as it was unusual for someone facing such a serious charge to choose not to.

“I'm not going to call a lawyer, I don't want Legal Aid,” Vaten told police upon his arrest.

“See basically it comes down to this, I don't know whether I know I did it or not. You guys are police officers, you guys are doing your job. Either you guys are going to prove I did it and I'm going to willingly plead guilty and go to jail for it. [Or] you guys are going to find out I didn't do it and everything is going to be OK.”

After several hours of interrogation with police, over two separate interviews, Vaten finally confessed to stabbing Carriere. The confession came immediately after the interrogating officer told him inmates can play video games in jail.

“His conscience begins to take over from the reluctance throughout the interview to accept that he's the type of person who's capable of doing it and also that his memories are real as oppose to what he hopes were just a bad dream that were inspired by cocaine and alcohol,” Forsyth said Thursday.

“In his own mind, he perceived that he had no future if he couldn't enjoy such things as playing video games, and when [the officer] said that they play video games in jail, that was essentially the last bit of his ability to resist his conscience. His last fear was set aside and at that point he did what he said he'd do at the very beginning of his interactions with police, and that's take responsibility for what he did.”

Following his confession to police, he was taken back to his cells at the police detachment in Manitoba, which he shared with another person. Unbeknownst to Vaten, his cellmate was an undercover officer.

Reading from a transcript of Vaten's conversation with his cellmate, Forsyth said: “[I] admitted to stabbing him, told them I took the knife apart, dropped it down the storm drain, cleaned it with iso, told them everything. This guy's family deserves [to know].”

“In other words, 'I told them because of my conscience, was the reason I told them,'” Forsyth said. “That is the absolute essence, I would submit, of a voluntary statement.”

Justice Beames is expected to rule on the admissibility of the confession Friday.

The January 2019 confession to police wasn't the only time Vaten allegedly confessed to the killing. The night Carriere was killed, Vaten spent the night in the Kelowna “drunk tank," and a cellmate of Vaten's testified Vaten had told him how he had stabbed a man just hours earlier.

Meanwhile, Vaten's lawyer Glenn Verdumen said he plans to put Vaten on the stand, to testify in his own defence. The Crown cannot compel an accused person to testify at their own trial, but an accused can choose to do so. Vaten's testimony is expected to take place once the trial resumes again, likely in September.

Truant, meanwhile, remains in custody Thursday, and his lawyer Grant Gray said they would deal with his bail Friday.

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