NEWS

Lawyer For Andrea Giesbrecht Asks For Delay Of Babies' Autopsies

10/29/2014 11:45 EDT | Updated 12/29/2014 05:59 EST
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WINNIPEG - The lawyer for a woman accused of hiding the remains of six infants in a storage locker is asking the court to delay autopsies even though they are "90 per cent" complete.

Greg Brodsky, who represents Andrea Giesbrecht, says the autopsies shouldn't go ahead without an independent pathologist present.

Giesbrecht, 40, sat occasionally biting her nails and pursing her lips as Brodsky told an emergency hearing Wednesday that the independent pathologist would observe the examination "with his hands in his pockets and Velcro on his mouth."

"I'm saying for the 155th time, all I want is a pathologist who is competent and accredited to ... observe the autopsies," Brodsky told Judge Brian Corrin as police continued to search Giesbrecht's Winnipeg home. "I don't want any further autopsy to be done until this court has ruled."

The hearing was dominated by Brodsky and lawyers for the Crown, the medical examiner's office and Winnipeg police — all arguing over who had standing to speak to the request. The hearing was eventually adjourned until Friday when all sides are to make their case over who can make submissions.

Giesbrecht, who showed no emotion during the hearing, is charged with six counts of concealing a body and one count of breaching probation. She has been in custody since the remains were discovered Oct. 20 by employees at a U-Haul storage locker. They had gone to do inventory since the bill hadn't been paid.

The state of the remains was such that police have said it could take months of forensic examination before it might be known who the parents were, how the infants died and whether they were even full term.

At Wednesday's hearing, a lawyer for the chief medical examiner's office said the autopsies were "90 per cent" complete. David Gisser said the remainder of the examination could be delayed for up to two weeks without compromising the remains.

But he told the judge he objected to Brodsky's "very unusual request."

"We have some concerns and questions as to whether the court has the jurisdiction to deal with this request," Gisser said. "I'm here to protect the integrity and the independence of the chief medical examiner's office."

According to documents filed with the court, Brodsky met with Manitoba's chief medical examiner, Thambirajah Balachandra, last Thursday to discuss the request.

Notes of the meeting filed in court quote Balachandra as saying that if the babies were less than 20 weeks old, they will not fall under the jurisdiction of the medical examiner's office. If they were older than that, pathologists must determine if they were alive or stillborn, Balachandra noted.

Pathologists must also determine if the remains are siblings and who their parents were, he said. Because there is a possibility further charges will be laid, it could "taint the investigation" to have an outside observer present, Balachandra said.

"Previous cases have been reviewed by other pathologists and they have been satisfied by the materials provided," Balachandra is quoted as saying.

Balachandra told Brodsky that if he wants a pathologist to observe, he should get a court order.

"We take cases very seriously and want to make sure everything is done correctly," Balachandra is quoted as saying.

In his motion filed, Brodsky said an independent observer would "minimize the tainting of the evidence that would occur as a result of performing autopsies or other procedures."

"He's not to direct anything. He's not to participate in the autopsy except to look," Brodsky said outside court Wednesday. "If there is nothing to hide, why are we having all these lawyers involved in so many arguments?"

Giesbrecht has not entered a plea. A bail hearing is scheduled for Nov. 12.

Court records indicate that Giesbrecht, who has also gone by the name Andrea Naworynski, is a gambling addict with a low-paying job at a fast-food restaurant.

She was given a suspended sentence and two years probation after pleading guilty to fraud for borrowing money from a 73-year-old neighbour and repaying her with bounced cheques.