The trial for a case that garnered the attention of not just Pictou County but African Canadian activists and Nova Scotians took place last week with the decision expected to come later this week in Pictou Provincial Court.
Shawn Wade Hynes of Trenton was accused of two indictable charges of criminal negligence causing bodily harm and assault with a weapon, namely a nail gun. The trial took place from Tuesday to Thursday of last week with a number of witnesses being called.
The Crown’s case that was outlined by Bill Gorman was based on the injury of victim Nhlanhla Dlamini, who is African Canadian; he alleged the actions of Hynes were deliberate either due to his race or the fact that he was the new guy and considered a kid on the job site as he was much younger than the rest of his coworkers at age 21.
The incident took place in September of last year when the P.Q. Properties crew was working on a construction site building a home for Quinn when Dlamini says he was shot in the back with a pneumatic nail gun, eventually causing severe respiratory problems and hospitalization for a number of days.
Keith Jordan, a member of the construction crew who was on-site, described that he and another co-worker were on one side of the home while Quinn was operating machinery and three others including Hynes and Dlamini were on the opposite side of the house when the incident happened. With generators, compressors and machinery all going at once it was a noisy site with the screams from Dlamini only becoming known to him when the noise broke for a minute.
“I thought he had fallen, he was on his belly,” Jordan said. It was described from then, through Jordan as well as a few other witnesses, how the situation proceeded after it had been discovered that Dlamini had been hurt. When other workers on the opposite side of the building made it to him, the nail had already been removed from the victim’s back and a small amount of blood was coming from the puncture wound. Dlamini was asked a number of times by Jordan and Quinn if he wanted an ambulance called or even if he would like them to drive him to the hospital.
Dlamini declined the rides to the hospital and instead asked to be taken home. He was driven home by Quinn and according to Dlamini’s friend that he lives with, the truck pulled up and dropped a weak and tired looking Dlamini at the house without saying a word to his friend when they were helping the victim out of the vehicle. Dlamini then went to his bedroom, after relating the incident to his friend, and attempted to rest. As soon as Dlamini’s friend’s mother, whose home he lives in, heard of the incident she and her husband raced home and found the young man lying on his bed with laboured breathing. She insisted on taking him to the hospital where he was checked and eventually given a room where his wound, that affected his lungs, was treated.
The investigating RCMP officer, Const. Shauna Collier, testified she found out about the incident the day after it happened, thanks to a call that had been taken the night previous. When she made it to the site where the injury happened, she added that it was evident that work had been going on since the incident so there was no way to tell if things had been moved or not.
When going to the site to collect statements from others working there, Collier was told by an employee of Quinn’s that she had no business being there and that she was to leave the site. Collier said she felt it was bordering on obstruction of the investigation. She eventually was able to get more evidence and statements from the employees that had been on-site at the time of the incident.
The case that was put forth by defence lawyer Andrew O’Blenis alleged that Dlamini was hit by the nail due to a ricochet that happened when Hynes was attempting to nail a top plate in place. Dan Clarke was the third employee who had been accompanying the accused and the victim on that side of the building that day. Clarke told the court that he was getting down from scaffolding when his feet hit the ground and he saw Dlamini laying on the ground about 40 feet away screaming, “It’s in me!”
Clarke said that as soon as Hynes heard of the injury from him he jumped off the five-foot scaffolding and made it to Dlamini before him and had already taken the nail out upon Dlamini’s request, by the time Clarke had made it over to Dlamini.
“I seen the splinter of the wood and I knew there was a ricochet,” he testified about just before he saw his co-worker on the ground. Clarke told the court that Hynes was asking Dlamini how he was and if he needed a doctor or an ambulance.
Having been a carpenter for 30 years, Clarke said that ricochets happen quite often, as much as a few times a month, especially when the wood is frozen in the winter or wet like it would have been the day of the incident.
Upon the cross-examination, it was brought up that Clarke had given an alternative story to police, saying that he had already been on the ground doing something when he turned and saw Dlamini on the ground.
During the closing arguments, O’Blenis reviewed the information that Dlamini had testified, namely, that he turned to run after Hynes said something to him and then he was shot, however, he never actually saw Hynes pull back the safety and then the trigger.
“There was no evidence that Mr. Hynes intentionally shot the gun,” said O’Blenis. “There should be reasonable doubt that there was any threat of Mr Hynes to shoot NH (Dlamini) with the nail gun.”
For the Crown, Gorman stated that the judge would have to decide ultimately if this was an accident or not. He spoke about how even pointing something such as a nail gun at someone, according to the Occupational Health and Safety Act, is not allowed.
“I ask Your Honour to consider the totality of the evidence,” Gorman said.
He also stated that due to testimony, there is reason to believe that the accused and the victim locked eyes before Hynes gave a smirk and Dlamini started running, as well as that Hynes said something along the lines of not expecting to hit Dlamini with the nail.
The final decision for the case is set to be released on Sept, 26 at Pictou Provincial Court.
Defence lawyer Andrew O’Blenis left, and Shawn Hynes, right, walk into the courtroom last week during the trial proceedings. (Brimicombe photo)