The defendants in this case were charged with conspiracy and possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking. The case went directly to trial in the Provincial Court of Alberta on the election of the defendants. Early in the trial the Crown Attorney objected to the disclosure of certain information on the grounds of a specified public interest under s. 37 of the Canada Evidence Act. Mr. Rice objected on the basis that the Crown Attorney was in the wrong court to assert the privilege. The proper court was the Federal Court under s. 37(3)(a) of the Act. The trial judge in the Provincial Court adjourned the trial. The next move made by the Crown Attorney was to bring the certification of the specified public interest before the Court of Queen’s Bench. Mr. Rice objected again and Chief Justice W.K. Moore said that he had reservations whether the Crown Attorney had brought the application in the right court. Faced with the prospect of conducting a long and delayed application on the crowded docket of the Federal Court, the Crown Attorney withdrew the charges.
Mr. Rice was retained by one of the two defendants in this case to appeal her convictions for aggravated assault and failing to provide the necessaries of life. During the Crown Attorney’s cross-examination of her at trial, it became apparent that he was using information that had not been disclosed to the defence. The trial judge dismissed applications for a stay of proceedings or a mistrial. The Alberta Court of Appeal held that there was no doubt that the Crown Attorney had a duty to disclose the information to the defendants prior to trial. Springing the information on the defendant during cross-examination was prejudicial and resulted in an unfair trial. The appeal was granted and a new trial was ordered.
This case began when a chambermaid found a package wrapped in brown paper in an Edmonton hotel room. She tore the top of the package open and saw a white substance inside. She thought it was Christmas cake and left the package in a utility room. Another hotel employee found it and thought it might be drugs. He called the police. The most recent guest in the room had checked out before the chambermaid found the package. The police set up surveillance to see if anyone would return to claim it. The investigation led to Mr. Rice’s client and a group of friends who were all charged with conspiracy and possessing cocaine for the purpose of trafficking. The prosecution attempted to establish a case of joint possession or constructive possession. After a lengthy preliminary inquiry the Crown Attorney realized that there was no reasonable likelihood of a conviction and withdrew all charges.