POLITICS

Case dismissed against woman charged in death of lobster fisherman

06/15/2015 06:27 EDT | Updated 06/15/2016 05:59 EDT
PORT HAWKESBURY, N.S. - A judge has dismissed the one criminal charge against the owner of a Cape Breton fishing boat at the centre of a string of court proceedings arising from what one lawyer has described as a case of "murder for lobster."

Carla Samson of D'Ecousse, N.S., had been charged with being an accessory after the fact amid criminal allegations that surfaced following the disappearance of Phillip Boudreau. So far, those allegations have resulted in manslaughter convictions against two of the three lobster fishermen aboard the vessel Twin Maggies on June 1, 2013 — the last day Boudreau was seen alive.

Samson wasn't aboard the fishing boat that day when it rammed Boudreau's much smaller speedboat, tossing him into the water off southern Cape Breton. However, as the owner of the Twin Maggies and the wife of its captain, she was implicated in the crime.

Her trial was just getting started Monday in Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Port Hawkesbury when Crown attorney Steve Drake told judge Simon MacDonald there was no realistic prospect for a conviction.

Defence lawyer Nash Brogan immediately asked MacDonald to dismiss the case and the judge agreed.

Samson, who was standing with family and friends in the public gallery, turned and walked out of the courtroom without saying a word.

Outside the courtroom, Brogan said he wasn't surprised by the collapse of the case.

"From Day 1 we've been saying that it was a crime that she was charged," he said, suggesting the evidence against Samson was minimal.

"It was nothing more than anybody would say in a family situation when the police are coming. A mother would say to her children, ... 'Everybody better have the same story.'"

Drake, also speaking outside the courtroom, said the Crown couldn't prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Samson had "full awareness" of what had happened to Boudreau.

Under the Criminal Code, an accessory after the fact to an offence is a person who knows someone has broken the law and then "receives, comforts or assists that person for the purpose of enabling that person to escape."

Samson was one of four people charged in the case, which attracted headlines in November when Drake told a Port Hawkesbury courtroom that the case amounted to "murder for lobster."

Samson is the daughter of Joseph James Landry of Little Anse, N.S., who was handed a 14-year prison sentence in January after a jury found him guilty of manslaughter. He was originally charged with second-degree murder. He has filed an appeal of the sentence.

During Landry's trial in November, the Crown said Boudreau's death was the result of a sustained attack by the three men aboard the Twin Maggies.

In a videotaped statement to police, Landry said he "wanted to destroy" the 43-year-old for repeatedly cutting lobster traps and threatening to set his house on fire.

"I was seeing black. I was so mad," Landry told police.

Landry admitted to police that as the Twin Maggies headed toward's Boudreau's boat, he used a rifle to fire four shots, one of which hit Boudreau in the leg.

At the mouth of Petit de Grat harbour, the Twin Maggies rammed Boudreau's boat three times, flipping it over.

The Crown said Landry then hooked Boudreau with a gaff and dragged him out to sea.

The three-man crew then tied an anchor to Boudreau's neck and upper arms and dropped him in an area where the water is more than 20 metres deep. His body has yet to be found.

The boat's captain, Carla Samson's husband Dwayne, pleaded guilty last month to manslaughter, having admitted that he was steering the vessel when it hit Boudreau's boat. He will be sentenced in August.

An agreed statement of facts read in court in Dwayne Samson's case largely mirrored what was heard at Joseph James Landry's trial.

Deckhand Craig Landry, who is Joseph James Landry's third cousin, was previously charged with second-degree murder but that charge was withdrawn. He now faces a charge of accessory after the fact.

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Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version mispelled Nash Brogan's last name in para 5.