The judge presiding over the case of a London police officer accused of not providing necessities of life for a First Nations mother he arrested in 2016 is expected to deliver a verdict on Friday.
Justice Ranee Pomerance has been overseeing the trial of Cst. Nicholas Doering.
Doering is facing a charge of criminal negligence causing death, and of failing to provide the necessities of life for Debra Chrisjohn, 39, of the Oneida Nation of the Thames and the mother to 11 children.
“The family is doing well,” said Caitlyn Kaspers, a lawyer with Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto and legal counsel for the Chrisjohn family. “They have had a number of individuals from the Indigenous community come in support.”
The charges against the officer were laid by Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU), an arms-length government agency that investigates any interaction between the public and police that involves injury or death or allegations of sexual assault.
According to the SIU Chrisjohn was in contact with police on Sept. 7, 2016 after it was reported she was obstructing traffic.
She was then arrested by Doering, who learned Chrisjohn had an outstanding warrant for shoplifting – but in another jurisdiction.
Doering handed Chrisjohn over to the local Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) detachment.
The family said she should have been taken to hospital.
Kasper said the video footage played during the trial was hard to watch.
It showed Chrisjohn in the OPP detachment completely limp, “feet dragging on the floor as she’s being carried toward the cell, where she is placed on the floor in recovery position,” said Kasper.
“I think visually the most disturbing was watching the tape from the cell in the detachment at St. Thomas OPP. The state that she was in was very difficult… it was on the big screen in the room.”
Less than three hours after being taken into custody, Chrisjohn was taken to hospital where she died of cardiac arrest due to an overdose of methamphetamine.
The trial ran Oct. 20 to 25.
Doering took the stand in his defence on the final day.
Both the Crown and defence made their final submissions Oct. 28.
Kasper said that throughout the trial, Pomerance ensured that Chrisjohn was respected.
“One of the things that the family recognized and was thankful for was that the justice consistently respected the dignity of Debra,” said Kasper. “And was consistent about making sure that all counsel tendered evidence that was as respectful as possible, and the family noticed that.”
Originally, the SIU also charged an officer with the Ontario Provincial Police, but those charges were later dropped.
The verdict is expected at 12 p.m. ET.