Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Newfoundland Man at Centre of Mr. Big Court Ruling Will Likely Go Free: Lawyer

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Newfoundland Man at Centre of Mr. Big Court Ruling Will Likely Go Free: Lawyer

Article excerpt

Mr. Big suspect will likely go free: lawyer


ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - One of the lawyers for a Newfoundland man convicted of drowning his twin daughters after a so-called Mr. Big sting says he expects his client will go free.

Jamie Merrigan said Thursday that without the confession wrought from the police tactic he doubts there's enough evidence for another trial.

"I don't think there's anything close to enough," he said in an interview. "I think that a grieving father is going to be released from prison."

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled Thursday that Nelson Hart's admissions during the sting cannot be used against him should he face another trial. Its majority decision found that Hart's Charter rights may have been violated and that there are too few protections for those ensnared in Mr. Big operations.

Crown prosecutor Frances Knickle and provincial Attorney General Felix Collins declined comment while they review the judgment.

Merrigan said Hart, who had limited education and was on social assistance, was especially defenceless.

"The Supreme Court of Canada has already said that Mr. Big is an acceptable technique. Our argument was always that it has to be analyzed contextually, which means you have to look at the person you're using it against and the way in which you're using it.

"Mr. Hart was a particularly vulnerable person that they used a particularly aggressive form of it on. And at the end of the day, they got a confession that was completely unreliable and meaningless."

The Mr. Big technique involves luring suspects into fake criminal gangs to extract confessions of past crimes.

Hart, now 45, was found guilty in 2007 of first-degree murder in the 2002 drowning deaths of his three-year-old twins, Karen and Krista, at Gander Lake in central Newfoundland. He was sentenced to life in prison and remains behind bars at Her Majesty's Penitentiary in St. John's.

Hart at first told detectives that Krista fell in the water on Aug. 4, 2002, at a recreation area called Little Harbour. He said he didn't jump in to help because he couldn't swim.

Despite having a cellphone, Hart left his other daughter behind as he drove about 11 kilometres to his home, passing a hospital, to get his wife who also couldn't swim. …

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