The results of an independent review into the death of a three-year-old girl in Truro, N.S. are expected by the end of August.
Samantha Mercer died after she sustained a significant brain injury in her home in March 2005.
Mercer’s mother’s boyfriend, Terry Dean Allen, was charged with manslaughter in her death. He testified that she fell down the stairs. A judge acquitted him at trial, saying the Crown failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Mercer’s family was devastated by the verdict and has questioned why certain pieces of evidence were never presented to the court, including a dented piece of wall from the girl’s bedroom.
CTV Atlantic aired an investigative report, which highlighted letters and emails between Nova Scotia’s Public Prosecution Service and the Truro Police Service, in March. In one email, a senior Crown attorney said the lead investigator told him he hadn’t had time to advance the case because he was responsible for a number of investigations and didn’t have a police vehicle or phone.
A month later, the Nova Scotia Department of Justice called for an independent review into how the case was handled, with Justice Minister Diana Whalen saying new information had come to light that she hadn’t seen before.
Prince Edward Island Police Commissioner and retired Chief Justice Gerard Mitchell will conduct the review. He will have full access to the records of the Truro Police Service, the Public Prosecution Service and the Nova Scotia Department of Justice. He will also be able to interview police officers, lawyers and justice officials connected to the case, as well as members of Mercer’s family.
According to documents from the Department of Justice, Mitchell has been asked to examine whether the investigation into Mercer’s death was handled appropriately and whether the interactions and communications between the Truro Police Service and Public Prosecution Service follow best practices.
This isn’t the first time the matter has been reviewed. Senior staff members with the Department of Justice conducted an internal review last year and determined no further action was required. The current independent review will also examine the internal findings of the Department of Justice.
Whalen has asked to be kept up-to-date throughout the review process and has asked that a final report be submitted by the end of August.
The findings and possible recommendations will be made public and provided to Mercer’s family.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Kelland Sundahl