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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Inquest probes pedophile's slaying by cellmate

6-19-2007 Canada:
Mentally ill inmates should be housed separately from other prisoners, a schizophrenic man who killed his cellmate four years ago told a coroner's inquest.

Daniel Labelle was testifying Monday via videoconference at the inquest in Ottawa into the death of 46-year-old Robert Hatton in 2003.

Hatton was intellectually disabled and had been convicted seven times for sexual offences against children, but was being held in the Ottawa Carleton Regional Detention Centre for a parole violation.

Labelle strangled Hatton in June 2003 and was later convicted of manslaughter. He's now serving an eight-year sentence at Penetanguishene Psychiatric Hospital.

Labelle, speaking from the hospital, said that before the slaying, he was scared that his cellmate, who weighed about 300 pounds, would try to rape him.

He said he asked repeatedly to be moved to another cell, but his request was denied.

Labelle apologized for what happened, and wanted the inquest to recommend that people with mental illness be housed separately.

Sister backs separate housing idea
As part of the inquest, Hatton's sister, Beverly Post, spoke from Ottawa to Labelle during the videoconference Monday.

She agreed that people with mental illness should be housed separately, and said so should people who have been convicted of sex crimes.

"Both of those types of individuals are ill in one way or another and really need to be segregated from the rest of the population," she told the CBC following the day's testimony.

Pedophiles, in particular, are often targets of violence by other prisoners.

Post said the inquest was useful, allowing her and Labelle to tell their sides of the story.

"I've explained to him … my brother that I knew and grew up with," said Post after testifying.

She described Hatton as being "like a monster bird in a little wee nest."

Despite his enormous size, she said, "he didn't have a mean bone in his body. He couldn't be riled, he couldn't be angered and he certainly would have fallen over if Daniel had even pushed him."

But she said she was not angry at Labelle, as she recognized he was a sick man.

"He expressed horrendous anxiety about being celled with my brother and he didn't feel that the powers that be listened to him," she said. "He didn't anticipate murdering, and I honestly believe that."

The inquest is expected to end Friday. ..more.. by CBC News

Construction put prisoner in killer’s way
6-19-2007 Canada:

Ideally, inmates with psychological problems are not supposed to be put in the same jail cell as high-risk offenders such as pedophiles, a coroner's inquest heard Tuesday. But crowding is often a problem at the Ottawa Carleton Detention Centre - and in the spring of 2003, construction made the situation even worse.

That is how Daniel Labelle, a schizophrenic inmate at the facility, ended up in the same cell as Robert Hatton, a convicted pedophile, Jean-Marc Joly, security manager at the centre, testified.

The match turned out to be deadly, as Mr. Labelle killed Mr. Hatton on June 8, 2003. An autopsy revealed Mr. Hatton died of asphyxiation.

"We just didn't have the cell space to have everyone who has a psychological disorder to have their own cells," Mr. Joly testified. A lack of cell space wasn't the centre's only problem.

A lack of communication between departments in the facility also may have been a contributing factor in Mr. Hatton's death. Tuesday, the psychiatrist contracted to assess Mr. Labelle once a month testified he did not have access to the inmate's psychological, health and criminal files.

Dr. Rufino Balmaceda, a psychiatrist with the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre, said Mr. Labelle appeared "fit" and "not psychotic" just less than a week before he murdered his cellmate. It was determined only after the killing that Mr. Labelle suffered from serious psychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia and, on June 8, 2003, he was taking one-tenth of the medication required to maintain a healthy mental state.

Mr. Labelle, 33, is now serving an eight-year sentence at the Penetanguishene Mental Health Centre, after admitting to the crime in November 2006.

Mr. Labelle and Mr. Hatton shared a cell at the detention centre for nearly three weeks starting in late May 2003 as the facility was undergoing renovations. At that time, prison staff placed inmates in cells together based on their psychological problems and their behaviour in jail, but did not take their crimes into account, Mr. Joly said. He did not explain why the decision was made to place Mr. Labelle in a cell with Mr. Hatton.

In recent years, Ontario judges have declared illegal the practice of sending mentally ill people who have been charged with crimes to jail until beds come open at the forensic units of psychiatric hospitals. Yet, because of a lack of beds, the practice continues.

Mr. Joly testified that Mr. Labelle got into repeated fights with other cellmates, and often lashed out, exhibiting erratic behaviour. But Dr. Balmaceda said he was unaware of any such behaviour.

On May 28, in his last report before the killing, he wrote that Mr. Labelle was "not as anxious" and was "sleeping well. I didn't get any sense he was going to be acting up," he testified Tuesday, suggesting that the system would better serve inmates if there were just one health file accessible by all departments.

Currently, psychological, psychiatric and criminal files are not available between departments in order to protect the inmates' privacy, Dr. Balmaceda said.

The inquest also heard from Nick Kennedy, the corrections officer who first noticed Mr. Hatton was unresponsive on June 8, 2003.

Mr. Kennedy said he was serving lunch to the inmates just before 1 p.m. when Mr. Hatton, who appeared to be sleeping, did not respond. He said Mr. Labelle answered for his cellmate, saying that Mr. Hatton "doesn't want to eat."

Suspicious, Mr. Kennedy said he entered the cell and discovered Mr. Hatton was not breathing and did not have a pulse. He called for medical treatment and began to perform CPR.

Mr. Labelle appeared calm that day and seemed content with his cellmate, Mr. Kennedy testified.
But just the day before, the inquest learned Mr. Labelle approached corrections officer Pierre Patenaude at least seven times with written and verbal requests for a cell change.

On Monday, Mr. Labelle testified via video-link from Penetanguishene, saying he wanted to change cells because he didn't want to be housed with a pedophile. Because his numerous requests for a cell change were denied, Mr. Labelle told the inquest he planned to start a fight with Mr. Hatton to get the attention of jail officials. He said he never intended to kill Mr. Hatton.

Mr. Patenaude testified he was fed up with Mr. Labelle's constant requests and threw one of his written requests in the garbage can.

"You could never reason with inmate Labelle," Mr. Patenaude said. "There was always an issue. It was never smooth sailing, never a good day with him."

The inquest continues Wednesday. The five-member jury is expected to make recommendations on how to prevent a case like this from happening again. ..more.. by Ottawa Citizen

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