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Deceased inmate's lawyer has doubts about level of co-operation with police investigation

Defence lawyer Bob Buckingham.
Defence lawyer Bob Buckingham. - Tara Bradbury
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

The defence lawyer who was going to represent Jonathan Henoche in a first-degree murder trial next summer has some doubts about how co-operative corrections staff will be with investigators looking into his former client’s death.

On Wednesday, it was announced that the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has determined Henoche's sudden death inside Her Majesty's Penitentiary in St. John's on Nov. 6 was a homicide. 

The 33-year-old from Labrador was charged with first-degree murder in the 2018 death of 88-year-old Regula Schule of Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

Bob Buckingham, the St. John's defence lawyer due to represent Henoche in the trial, cautioned when reached by The Telegram Thursday that the homicide ruling is simply a medical determination and not a criminal one.

"In terms of determining a matter of death, the medical examiner determines whether it's natural, an accident or a suicide, undetermined or a homicide," he said.

However, Buckingham said the ruling confirmed his suspicions that Henoche's death was the result of some form of intervention on the part of others inside the prison.

"That's an important finding in this process — it's what I thought from the beginning," he said.


Justice Minister Andrew Parsons met with reporters Thursday to respond to questions about the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner's ruling that the death of an inmate at Her Majesty's Penitentiary on Nov. 6 was a homicide. ANDREW ROBINSON/THE TELEGRAM
Justice Minister Andrew Parsons met with reporters Thursday to respond to questions about the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner's ruling that the death of an inmate at Her Majesty's Penitentiary on Nov. 6 was a homicide. ANDREW ROBINSON/THE TELEGRAM

The details of what happened Nov. 6 have not been made public, though a source previously told The Telegram Henoche was found dead that day in a segregation unit cell following an altercation with corrections officers.

In light of the fact his former client's side of the story can never be known, Buckingham has concerns about how co-operative staff at Her Majesty's Penitentiary will be with the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary. The RNC's major crime unit is investigating the incident.

"I think that in terms of the institution itself, they have rolled up the drawbridge and staffed the walls," he said. "They are, I would imagine, being quite protective. That's my assessment so far. I'm not sure how much co-operation the police are going to get."

Once the investigation concludes, Buckingham wants a public inquiry to be called into Henoche's death.

"I think there should be a recognition that there are some problems institutionally with our penitentiary services," he said. 

A spokesman for the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees, the union representing corrections officers in the province, told The Telegram Thursday union president Jerry Earle would not comment on the matter.

Justice Minister Andrew Parsons spoke to reporters outside the House of Assembly Thursday morning, but was reluctant to comment on specifics related to the police investigation. He declined to comment on the status of the corrections officers involved in the incident.

"Unfortunately, I cannot comment on it — it is a human resources issue," he said. "Given the fact it is an ongoing investigation, it would be inappropriate for me to talk about it."

As he did last month when commenting on the matter, Parsons offered his condolences to the family, adding he is also thinking about the inmates and staff.

"It's never an easy environment on any given day, but when you have a situation like this, all I can say is you take it extremely seriously," he said.



Buckingham said he spoke with Henoche's family Wednesday and they remain upset about his death.

"They're still suffering from their loss and they continue to be devastated. They are processing the news that it is now considered a homicide, and they're still in shock with respect to that — notwithstanding the thought it might come down to that. But they're still in shock to hear from officials that it is being investigated as a homicide in a place where he was supposed to be kept for his safety."

andrew.robinson@thetelegram.com
Twitter: @CBNAndrew

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