A Manitoba judge has refused to dismiss a high-profile criminal case despite blasting officials for an "unacceptable" five-year delay in bringing the matter to trial.
Arnold Lanuza, 29, was arrested in August 2007 and accused of opening fire on a crowd outside a Garry Street nightclub. Five bystanders were injured in an attack police believe was gang-related.
Lanuza's case has dragged through the court system ever since, with at least three lengthy adjournments blamed on late disclosure of evidence by police and the Crown to the defence. Defence lawyer Roberta Campbell sought to have the charges against her client tossed out on the grounds his right to a quick and speedy hearing have been violated.
Queen's Bench Justice Joan McKelvey said Thursday she has sympathy for Lanuza's plight but wasn't inclined to set him free. She ruled the trial, now scheduled to begin next week, will proceed.
Lanuza is accused of aggravated assault and numerous firearm offences.
"The amount of delay here is significant and unacceptable," McKelvey said in her strongly worded decision. But she said there is no evidence of any "prejudice" against Lanuza, a required finding to make a decision to dismiss the case.
The issue of judicial delay has been prominent lately. Last week, a Winnipeg man accused of repeatedly sexually abusing a young girl was set free on a technicality after a judge ruled police took too long bringing his case to court. Provincial court Judge Brent Stewart dismissed all criminal charges against the 32-year-old man, saying a clear breach of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms had occurred. The case was set for trial next month.
The girl, now 17, came forward to police in December 2009 to say she had been frequently molested by her mother's ex-boyfriend between April 2002 and April 2003. She was just seven at the time of the alleged abuse. Police authorized charges of sexual assault, sexual interference and invitation to sexual touching on Jan. 12, 2010, and issued a warrant for the man's arrest.
But police never told him about the charges and allowed the warrant to gather dust until executing it on July 26, 2011. Police have given no reason for the 18-month delay, which prompted defence lawyer Martin Glazer to successfully file for dismissal.
Last year, a manslaughter charge against shopkeeper Kwang Soo Kim was stayed after a key witness, who faced his own criminal charges, fled Manitoba and could not be located by police in time for the trial. Kim was accused of fatally injuring Geraldine Beardy after she allegedly tried to steal a can of luncheon meat.