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New Brunswick prison guards plead not guilty on manslaughter charge

Last Updated Apr 25, 2018 at 11:40 am EDT

Matthew Ryan Hines is shown in a handout photo. Two correctional officers charged with manslaughter in the death of a New Brunswick inmate are scheduled to enter pleas when they return to a Moncton courtroom today. Forty-eight-year-old Alvida Ross and 31-year-old Mathieu Bourgoin are each charged with manslaughter and criminal negligence in the 2015 death of Matthew Hines. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Wendy Gillis MANDATORY CREDIT

MONCTON, N.B. – Lawyers for two New Brunswick correctional officers charged with manslaughter in the death of a Nova Scotia inmate have entered not guilty pleas on their behalf and elected trial by judge and jury.

Alvida Ross, 48, and Mathieu Bourgoin, 31, face manslaughter and criminal negligence charges in the 2015 death of Matthew Hines of Cape Breton.

RCMP had originally said foul play was not suspected in the death of Hines, who was repeatedly pepper sprayed in a New Brunswick prison. But Canada’s correctional investigator, Ivan Zinger, found prison staff used unnecessary force and failed to properly respond to the medical emergency at Dorchester Penitentiary.

Neither of the officers were in court Wednesday.

Five days have been set aside for a preliminary hearing to begin Oct. 29, but Alison Menard, the lawyer for Bourgoin, said Wednesday there are a lot of documents to consider.

“It’s always really difficult in the early stages to determine how long something will take from start to finish. Part of that is scheduling and part of that is how complex the file is,” she said.

The proceedings are being conducted in French.

Hines was serving a five-year sentence for crimes including robbery when he died on May 26, 2015.

Family members were originally told the 33-year-old died of a seizure.

Two family members, who travelled from Sydney, N.S., wept in court Wednesday and declined to comment as they left the courthouse.

“Today is just too hard,” their lawyer, Julie Kirkpatrick, told reporters.

On January 3 — the day the charges were laid — the family issued a statement which included: “Although we have been told and accept that only two correctional officers are facing criminal charges under the Criminal Code of Canada, we trust that all who saw Matthew before and during his death look in the mirror every day with the knowledge of what they did and did not do.”

In his report, released in May 2017, Zinger said the repeated use of pepper spray at very close range appears to have contributed to Hines’s rapid onset of medical complications.

“In this case, everything that could go wrong in a use-of-force intervention went wrong,” Zinger wrote.

Correctional Service Canada has said both employees are currently on administrative leave pending a review.