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The Queen v. Jimmy R. (Oshawa)

Charges: Production of a Controlled Substance; Possession of a Controlled Substance for the Purpose of Trafficking; Theft of Hydro-Electricity.

The Facts: Jimmy R. was charged in relation to a marijuana grow operation concealed in a house in a subdivision in Oshawa. A neighbor who walked his dog each day became concerned when he noticed that the snow was never shoveled; a car had been sitting idle in the driveway for weeks; mail was spilling out of the mailbox, and the windows were covered up with blinds and tin foil. He was concerned that someone inside might be ill or even dead, and called the police. The police made a number of additional observations, including a strong smell of marijuana coming from the basement windows, and elevated hydro meter readings. They applied for a search warrant and discovered a large grow op in the basement. The house had been rented by Jimmy R., and police obtained a rental agreement from a local real estate office, signed by our client, and containing a great deal of personal information linking him to the property. Police also seized a number of other documents, including postdated cheques, and, most damaging of all, a list of instructions, in our client’s handwriting, detailing the steps necessary to maintain the marijuana grow-op charges.

The Defence Strategy: In every case where a search warrant has uncovered incriminating evidence, the first step is to determine whether the search warrant can be challenged and the resulting evidence excluded; in this case, the police had done their homework, and the warrant was airtight. We then worked on proving that while the client had rented the property, other people were manning the operation. There was evidence of a woman in the house, and the car in the driveway was registered to someone else. With this approach, we sought to raise a reasonable doubt about whether our client knew what was going on inside the house (he lived elsewhere).

The Trial: We decided to present the case to a jury for a number of reasons, including the circumstantial nature of the case, the reputation of judges in Durham, and the fact that there were many unresolved clues and unanswered questions about the documents and evidence found in the house (juries tend to be curious about missing clues and ambiguous evidence). We challenged the admissibility and relevance of every document found by police, in particular the rental agreement, which connected all of the other evidence (we had begun sowing the seeds for this approach at the preliminary inquiry). We were successful in arguing that the Crown had failed to lay a sufficient foundation for the introduction of the rental agreement, and blocked the Crown’s attempts to adjourn the trial to call the real estate agent who could connect these dots for the Crown (by electing a jury trial, it becomes difficult for the Crown to seek adjournments in mid-trial).

The Result: As a result of these tactics, we argued that Crown did not have enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Jimmy R. had knowledge of the grow-op in the house. The jury agreed, and acquitted our client. Jimmy R., who was a salesman for a rapidly growing international business, was able to resume travelling and is now a senior executive at the company.

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