The trial of six alleged grow-oppers, who face more than 100 criminal charges ranging from producing and possessing marijuana for trafficking to stealing electricity, began in Whitehorse this week.
But information Whitehorse RCMP used to secure search warrants — executed during eight days of raids in September 2005 that saw more than 4,600 marijuana plants seized from six Whitehorse homes, worth an estimated $2 to $5 million — is being probed during an introductory hearing.
Kiu Tin Yeung, Guang Xian Zhu, Wei Min Zhai, Wei Xiong Wen, Jian Xiong Jian and Kwok Yin Cheung are on trial following the busts.
Each faces six counts of production of a controlled substance, six counts of possession of a controlled substance and six counts of stealing electricity.
Wei is also charged with possession of property obtained through a crime.
All have pleaded not guilty to the charges.
But the Crown’s case could rest on territorial court judge Karen Ruddy’s ruling on the admissibility of its evidence, some of which is being contested by lawyers defending the six men.
In a voir dire, or a trial within a trial, defence lawyers Gord Coffin, Mitch Foster and Ken Westlake have repeatedly questioned the reliability of information the RCMP provided to secure search warrants used to find the marijuana grow-ops.
Cpl. Thomas Wyers, a 17-year veteran of the RCMP, co-ordinated the case.
To get search warrants, Wyers compiled reports from several officers on the case into documents known as ITOs, or Information To Obtain.
The reports require full, frank and fair disclosure of police evidence, which a justice of the peace uses to decide whether to grant a search warrant.
One paragraph in the report claims one of two un-named informants who tipped police about a grow-op came to the RCMP and spoke with Wyers without any prodding from other officers.
On Tuesday, Coffin illustrated Wyers could not know if his assertion was true, as he never asked other officers.
“You put it in, but you had no idea whether it was true,” said Coffin. “Why?”
“I don’t know what to tell you, other than I made an assumption I shouldn’t have made,” said Wyers.
“Were you lying?” asked Coffin.
“I did the best job that I could,” said Wyers.
“I’m not lying — after 17 years in this job, it’s not my business to lie. I made an assumption I shouldn’t have made.”
Information Wyers provided about a vehicle observed at one of the houses and its connection to the house was also questioned by Coffin.
In a report, an investigating officer stated the driver of a vehicle seen at the house was not the residence’s owner, Wyers said otherwise in his report.
“What you’ve done there is made a stronger connection than it actually was, correct?” asked Coffin.
“Would you agree with me that that is neither frank or fair disclosure?” he asked.
“In completing this information to obtain, I believed I was providing full and frank disclosure,” responded Wyers.
“Upon reviewing it, I acknowledge there were errors.
“In that sense, it’s not necessary full and frank, I agree.”
Coffin and Foster have challenged Wyers several times about the information he included in the report.
Coffin repeatedly asked whether he had included inaccurate information to add “oomph” to the request for a search warrant.
And, on several occasions, Wyers testified that he did, indeed, err.
If the defence efforts are successful, the RCMP search warrant could be found inadmissible during the trial, explained Westlake.
That could call into question the admissibility of other RCMP evidence — including the 4,600 pot plants police found.
But Ruddy could still deem the evidence admissible while dismissing the search warrants, said Westlake.
The six defendants are sitting in a box usually used for the jury during trials.
Two interpreters are translating the trial into Mandarin from English from within a soundproof booth on one side of the courtroom.
All six defendants are wearing headphones to follow what is being said.
Another Asian man, charged after last year’s grow-op busts, was recently convicted.
Judge John Faulkner sentenced Zhu Dong Liang to one year in jail for producing marijuana and one year — to be served at the same time — for possessing cocaine.
Faulkner also sentenced Zhu to three-months in jail for stealing electricity, which he will serve at the same time as his other two sentences.