The first week of a hearing into the Whitehorse Correctional Centre’s treatment of Michael Nehass wrapped up in Yukon Supreme Court yesterday.
A second week of testimony is planned for the end of February. If needed, more time has been scheduled later in the year.
Nehass alleges his treatment in the Yukon’s only jail has violated his rights. He wants the judge to take that into consideration before sentencing him for crimes he was convicted of in May.
Nehass has been held in jail since December 2011. It’s clear that the majority of that time has been away from the general population, either in segregation or in the jail’s secure living unit.
But so far, no one has been called to give any detailed evidence or timeline about the conditions Nehass has been living in while in either of those units.
Nehass’s lawyer, Sarah Rauch, told judge Scott Brooker she had subpoenaed the jail’s deputy superintendent Geoff Wooding to appear this week, but was told he had retired. Rauch said she would like him to testify in person, with all of Nehass’s records.
Brooker agreed that Wooding’s testimony is important and re-subpeoned him for when the hearing continues.
One corrections officer did testify. Sarah Graham testified she worked with Nehass as a programs officer over “a few months.”
Sometime around February 2015 she took pictures, at Nehass’s request, of abrasions and scar tissue on his ankles. Nehass has said that’s from the shackles he was forced to wear for long periods of time.
When she first started working with Nehass he was required to wear shackles as well as “belly chains” attached to his wrist to restrict arm movement, Graham said. They would only talk through the hatch in the door.
The goal was to eventually have him without shackles and interacting with other inmates in the secure living unit. Graham testified that did eventually happen. She said she stopped working with Nehass some time after that.
When asked if she had concerns about Nehass being housed in the secure living unit, Graham said she “would like to see him succeed. But wouldn’t say I had concerns.”
The majority of yesterday’s court time was taken up by videos of the incident in January 2014 when Nehass was brought, without any clothes, from his segregation cell to a video court appearance.
The first video – apparently from inside Nehass’s cell – was not shown to the public gallery. Nehass has testified that he was not wearing any clothes when the guards, in their riot gear, came to get him.
Nehass and his lawyer did agree to show the public other clips. Most are very short and don’t include sound.
They show clips of Nehass being brought from his cell, down hallways and into an elevator before arriving in the room set up for him to take part in court proceedings over video.
Nehass has guards at his arms and legs and is being carried face down.
In most of the clips shown in court it appears a beige towel was draped over Nehass’s lower half. In other clips, the quality of the video makes it hard to say for certain.
None of the guards present that morning has testified.
In the video room, a stationary camera shows three, sometimes four, guards pinning Nehass to the ground while others stand at the door.
Only one of the videos played in court had sound. It is from a hand-held camera recording the incident.
It mostly shows Nehass in the video room as well as a few moments before.
He is moaning at times, but also angry.
“You have no right to treat me like this!” he shouts at the guards.
He yells that he has only had “maybe 60” showers in two years.
“I have the right to fresh air, I have the right to phone calls… What you’re doing to me is hell.”
When not yelling about the way he is being treated, Nehass launches into his conspiracy theory, which he believes is the reason he’s being kept behind bars.
He insists that he has been sterilized.
Inside the video room, the voice of Yukon Justice Leigh Gower can be heard over Nehass. Gower was presiding over the hearing.
Gower repeatedly asks Nehass, who is still pinned to the ground, to stop talking while Nehass continues to insist that he is a sovereign individual protected by UN law.
Eventually the judge consults with the guards and they move Nehass from the ground to a chair.
“Cover up my penis so they don’t see it on camera,” Nehass says.
A guard tells the judge he is putting his hand in front of the camera.
After Nehass is placed in the chair he continues to talk about his theories.
Gower steps in and orders Nehass be assessed to see if he is fit to stand trial.
That assessment did happen and at first Nehass was found unfit. That decision was later overturned by the Yukon Review Board.
On the stand, prosecutor Eric Marcoux suggested that guards had in fact offered to give Nehass something to wear, but he refused.
Nehass denied that.
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