Prosecutor is trying to avert another delay in NWT’s Devon Larabie murder trial

The courthouse at Yellowknife.  Devon Larabie's trial is scheduled to begin in November.  It is expected to last 5 weeks and hear 70 witnesses.  (Natalie Pressman/CBC - photo credit)

The courthouse at Yellowknife. Devon Larabie’s trial is scheduled to begin in November. It is expected to last 5 weeks and hear 70 witnesses. (Natalie Pressman/CBC – photo credit)

The prosecutor wants to ensure that Devon Larabie’s trial proceeds in November and that there are no last-minute changes to postpone it.

By then, three and a half years will have passed since the body of Breanna Menacho was discovered in a Yellowknife apartment. Larabie is charged with second-degree murder in the 22-year-old’s death.

Larabie, 30, sat huddled in a chair in a room at the North Slave Correctional Complex and appeared via video before the Northwest Territories Superior Court in Yellowknife on Wednesday. The prosecutor requested that an attorney be appointed to shadow Larabie’s attorney, Michael Spratt, at and during the trial.

“We’re trying to maximize our chances of a fall 2023 trial,” prosecutor Blair McPherson told the judge.

McPherson then reviewed past delays in the case. Spratt is the fourth publicly funded attorney to represent Larabie in the case. Larabie fired his first attorney early. He fired his second attorney just before his investigation was due to begin. Last September, he fired his third attorney a day before his trial began.

If appointed, a shadow attorney (known as an amicus, or friend of the court, in Latin court terminology) could step in if Larabie fires his current attorney. The attorney would act as an advisor to Larabie, who would then represent himself.

Spratt did not deny the Crown’s request, adding: “I see no problems between me and Mr Larabie.”

McPherson said if Larabie represents himself, he will need help because of the complexity of the case. Forensic experts will provide fingerprints and DNA evidence. The prosecutor said the case relates to poisoning and the impact Larabie’s actions may have had.

McPherson said at the time he was considering calling about 70 witnesses, including five people, who were at the home when Menacho was killed. McPherson said those five witnesses remained traumatized and could not be interviewed by Larabie herself.

The trial is scheduled to take place over five weeks before Gates without a jury, starting November 14.

Complications in the courtroom

The matter was due to be decided on Wednesday, but the court appearance was fraught with complications unrelated to the case. Assistant Judge Michel Gates, Larabie and Spratt appeared via video. But Gates, who was in Whitehorse, couldn’t connect to the video conference. Technicians tried for an hour to fix the problem but couldn’t. Gates finally called.

Gates then found that he was missing some of the documents that the prosecutor had filed in support of the motion.

“I specifically asked if there was anything recently filed and was told no,” the judge said. “I don’t know if we are able to continue with that today.”

Gates said he wanted to see the documents. He also wants the attorneys to reach agreement on the specific role the shadow attorney would play if Spratt represents Larabie and the role he will play if Larabie fires Spratt.

Gates has deferred a decision on the application until those matters can be addressed. The case is back in court on March 10.


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