The trial of a Toronto man arrested following the first major fentanyl bust in the Yukon began in Whitehorse on May 21, with more than half of the day revolving around a partial fingerprint pulled from a sandwich bag containing dozens of pills.
Jibril Hosh Jibril, 28, has pleaded not guilty to one count of possession of fentanyl for the purposes of trafficking.
Jibril was arrested in Whitehorse in June 2017 after a package containing 535 green pills, later found to contain fentanyl, was intercepted at the Whitehorse Greyhound station in April of that year.
The incident was the first major fentanyl bust in the territory.
Greyhound station manager Kevin Jack told the court that he quickly grew suspicious on April 28, 2017, when a man who identified himself as “Jamal Ali” attempted to ship a small box to a person in Lethbridge, Alta., but could not provide a phone number for the intended recipient.
The box was addressed to a “Daud Mohamed,” Jack said, a name he recognized from previous packages and which he had “notified” the RCMP about before.
(According to local media reports from Alberta in 2016, a then-29-year-old Daud Mohamed was arrested in Lethbridge and charged with, among other things, possession of fentanyl for the purposes of trafficking. The current status of his charges is unclear.)
Wary of the contents, Jack said he opened the box and found a piece of cloth that appeared to be a shirt. After pushing it aside, he said, he discovered a handgun magazine, at which point he called the RCMP.
Asked by Crown prosecutor Benjamin Eberhard if he could give a description or recognize the man who dropped off the package, Jack said he could not.
While the court heard from the Whitehorse RCMP officer who responded to the call, as well as two others who assisted with the investigation, surveillance and Jibril’s arrest, it was the testimony from a fingerprint expert that took up more than half the day.
Yukon RCMP reserve Const. Shelly Massey testified that she was called in April 2017 to assist with examining the contents of the package confiscated from the Greyhound station.
The package contained a shirt, the handgun magazine, sweatpants, a stuffed toy squirrel, a plastic gun holster and a plastic bag containing six smaller plastic sandwich bags.
Each sandwich bag contained dozens of pills with fentanyl in them.
Massey told the court that she tested the packing tape on the package, magazine, holster and plastic bags for fingerprints. She was able to pull three partial prints, two of which she submitted into a national database to check for matches.
One print, pulled off a plastic bag, matched with fingerprints the Saskatoon Police Service had taken of Jibril in 2013, Massey said. She testified that after examining and comparing the “unknown” print with the prints taken in Saskatoon, she was “certain” that the “unknown” print and the left ring-finger print from Saskatoon came from the same finger.
It was after that match that investigators began focusing on Jibril as a suspect; Whitehorse RCMP Const. Kelly Manweiller testified that she was able to obtain a picture of Jibril from the Drumheller Institution in Alberta, which she and another officer, Const. Mitchell Hutton, used as a reference when doing surveillance around Whitehorse.
Investigators ultimately found Jibril on June 30, 2017, when he drove past Hutton on Second Avenue. Hutton told the court he followed Jibril’s vehicle into Riverdale and found it parked at a plaza; after checking at all the local businesses, he waited about an hour until Jibril returned to the parking lot, at which point he arrested him.
Massey testified that the prints Manweiller collected from Jibril following his arrest matched the prints taken by Saskatoon police.
However, under cross-examination by Jibril’s lawyer, David Chow, Massey said that she did not compare the “unknown” print to the prints collected from Jibril following his arrest in Whitehorse.
As well, Massey agreed that fingerprint analysis cannot determine how long a print has been on a surface, nor was there a way to tell how many times the sandwich bag the print was pulled off of had changed hands.
Chow questioned Massey extensively about her investigative process, noting, among other things, the lack of documentation on her analysis of the other prints and her comparison of the Saskatoon and Whitehorse prints. Massey had prepared a 13-page report on the “unknown” print, Chow said, but he had no way of examining her other work.
Massey replied that the lack of reports did not indicate a lack of analysis, and that the report on the “unknown” print was simply an “illustration” for the court.
Massey and Chow also disagreed on the similarities, or lack thereof, between a formation in the “unknown” print and Jibril’s Whitehorse prints. Chow suggested that there was a “ridge” in Jibril’s print, but in the same area on the “unknown,” there was an “island.” Massey, however, said that she saw an “incipient ridge” in both prints, and the slight visual difference could be explained by the different motion and pressure used to apply the prints.
The difference is not significant, she said, because in fingerprint comparison, an expert looks at the totality of the prints, not just one aspect.
The trial continues May 22.
Contact Jackie Hong at email@example.com