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COVID-19 forces venue change of manslaughter trial to Capitol Theatre

The Capitol Theatre on Victoria Street in Nelson will be transformed from a cultural and entertainment venue into a court room for a judge and jury trial. — The Nelson Daily photo

The Capitol Theatre in Nelson will soon provide the backdrop, not for a usual musical performance by local actors, but, instead, for a criminal jury trial involving a Castlegar RCMP Constable.

The region's premier cultural and entertainment venue was found to be the best possible location during the COVID-19 pandemic for a manslaughter trial by judge and jury of Castlegar RCMP Const. Jason Tait.

“Facilities branch canvassed a number of venues in Nelson that could accommodate a jury trial taking into account the physical distancing guidelines,” the BC Ministry of Attorney General said in an emailed statement to The Nelson Daily.

“The only venue that met the requirements of a court facility  — including counsel stand down rooms, jury box, public gallery, judge’s chambers and other considerations including proximity to accommodation and possible jury deliberation sites, courthouse, security, etc. —  was the Capitol Theatre.”

The BC Ministry of Attorney General  said jury selection runs from Wednesday, September 16-20th with the trial set to commence Monday, September 28th.

RCMP Const. Tait elected trial by judge and jury to face charges stemming from the January 29, 2015 shooting death of Waylon Jesse Edey of Yahk, B.C. during an attempted traffic stop near the east end of the Kinnaird Bridge on Highway 3 in Castlegar.

According to the court documents, Edey’s vehicle struck an RCMP cruiser then drove towards Const. Tait, who fired his weapon.

Edey, 39, was transported to Kootenay-Boundary Regional Hospital in Trail, but succumbed to his injuries a short time after arriving at hospital.

The BC Ministry of Attorney General said the Province has introduced additional health and safety measures to allow criminal jury trials to resume safely, including finding an alternate location, such as the  Capitol Theatre.

“(Steps include) rearranging rooms to allow for physical distancing, adding Plexiglas and Lexan dividers where physical distancing is not possible, limiting the number of individuals in the courtroom at any one time, having signage at entrances and within the courthouse reminding users of physical distancing and proper hand hygiene etiquette,” the BC Ministry of Attorney General explained.

“(Additional steps include) implementing and carrying out enhanced cleaning protocols, providing access to hand sanitizer and carrying out regular screenings prior to entering a courthouse.”

The trial is expected to last at least eight to nine weeks.

Several parking stalls on Victoria Street will closed to allow easy access for court staff, sheriffs, lawyers and witnesses.

Const. Tait was charged with manslaughter using a firearm and criminal negligence causing death with a firearm following a report to Crown Counsel by the B.C. Independent Investigation Office (IIO) on April 3, 2018, three years after the incident.

A preliminary hearing in 2019 found there was enough evidence for the matter to proceed to trial.