Alberta judge surprised over Crown disclosure delay in murder case against intellectually challenged woman

Wendy Scott’s new trial linked to Connie Oakes appeal on murder conviction

(Wendy Scott in a Facebook photo from 2008. APTN/File)

Jorge Barrera
APTN National News
An Alberta judge expressed surprise Thursday that the new murder trial of an intellectually challenged woman—whose fate is linked to an incarcerated Cree woman’s claim of innocence—would again be delayed because the Crown had still not turned over disclosure files to the defence.

Wendy Scott, 30, appeared a second time before the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench in Medicine Hat, Alta., for her arraignment hearing, which was again pushed back, this time to Jan. 8.

Justice Dallas Miller was told by Medicine Hat lawyer Bill Cocks, who was acting as an agent for Scott’s Calgary lawyers, that the Crown had still not handed over the disclosure file in Scott’s case, thus making it difficult to prepare for her defence.

Cocks said Scott’s lawyers wanted the new hearing for January to set a trial date.

Prosecutor Ryan Anstey, who was also handling the case Thursday on behalf of the Calgary-area Crown assigned to Scott’s case, said he wasn’t aware of the issues around disclosure and meekly suggested a January date may not give enough time to transfer the disclosure files because of the holidays.

Miller, however, wasn’t moved and said a January date would put needed pressure on the Crown to finally hand over the disclosure.

“I am surprised disclosure is a problem,” said Miller. “A little pressure on the Crown doesn’t hurt.”

Scott was granted a new trial in October after the Court of Appeal of Alberta quashed her guilty plea and struck her conviction of second degree murder in the 2011 killing of Medicine Hat, Alta., man Casey Armstrong.

Connie Oakes pictured along with the Edmonton Institution for Women where she is currently held.
Connie Oakes pictured along with the Edmonton Institution for Women where she is currently held.

The next steps in Scott’s trial will have a potential pivotal impact on the ongoing appeal of her co-accused in the murder, Connie Oakes, a 50 year-old Cree woman from the Nekaneet First Nation in southern Saskatchewan.

Oakes’ appeal hearing date is set for Jan. 12 in Calgary.

With no murder weapon, DNA or fingerprint evidence, the Medicine Hat police and the Medicine Hat Crown which initially handled the case relied exclusively on Scott’s confession, guilty plea and testimony to build the case against Oakes, who has maintained her innocence. Oakes was found guilty by a Medicine Hat jury of second-degree murder and sentenced to life with no chance of parole for 14 years.

Scott, who has been assessed as having an IQ of 50, has since stated in an affidavit filed as part of Oakes’ appeal that she doesn’t believe Oakes was at Armstrong’s trailer where the 48 year-old man was found dead in his bathtub with a puncture wound through the neck so severe it nearly decapitated him.

It remains unclear how the Crown will proceed in its case against Scott. When the Court of Appeal ordered a new trial, it ruled the Crown must again proceed with the initial charge filed against Scott which was for first-degree murder.

The only evidence police had to charge Scott was her confession that she was there when Armstrong was killed. Scott, however, also blamed three other people, two men and a woman, for the murder during police interrogations.

Video image of the January 2012 interrogation Wendy Scott (left) by Medicine Hat police.
Video image of the January 2012 interrogation Wendy Scott (left) by Medicine Hat police.

Police have also never determined the source of a size 11 bloody boot print found on the floor of the bathroom where Armstrong was found. The Crown who initially handled the case, Andrea Dolan, also never introduced details contained in her files about the red car police believed was used in the murder.

In interrogation video recently released by the Alberta court to APTN, Scott told a police investigator that a woman named Ginger was involved in the murder.

Scott appeared before the court Thursday with her ankles shackled and wearing prison-issued blue sweatshirt and sweatpants. She seemed much less agitated compared to her previous appearance on Nov. 19 when her face was afflicted by seemingly involuntary tics and her arms moved constantly at her side.

This time Scott’s face bore obvious signs of fatigue and it appeared she had difficulty focusing on the proceedings unfolding before her.

Scott said little during her appearance. When Miller asked if she was Wendy Scott, she said softly, “Yes I am.”

Miller didn’t hear her and prompted her to speak up saying, “Ma’am?”

“Yeah,” said Scott, confirming her identity.

She was then quickly returned to the holding cells after Miller set the date for her next appearance.

“Ms. Scott, see you on Jan. 8,” said Miller.

Scott remains in custody and no mention of bail was made during Thursday’s hearing.

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