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Friday, August 14, 2009

Hyde thought medications were poisoned, inquiry told

August 14, 2009
CBC News

Hearings into death of Dartmouth man hit by Taser adjourns until October

A deputy sheriff says a mentally ill man who was shocked with a Taser by Halifax police and died the next day while in custody told him he wasn't taking his medications because he believed they were poisoned.

Deputy Sheriff Jim Crook testified Friday that he spoke to Howard Hyde on Nov. 21, 2007, as the man was awaiting transfer to court for an arraignment.

Testifying at the inquiry into Hyde's death, Crook said he realized that the 45-year-old had been involved in a struggle with police and had been jolted with a stun gun.

Hyde died in a jail about 30 hours later.

Crook said he thought Hyde seemed confused and "bedraggled" while waiting in a jail cell for several hours before going to court.

The deputy sheriff said when he spoke to Hyde, he asked him if he had been taking any medications.

"His response to that was rather unusual," said Crook. "He said his medication had contained nickel, mercury and cadmium and that was why he wasn't taking any medication."

Crook testified that Hyde would speak "rationally or normally" for a period of time but then would lose his focus and begin to "go off track, seem disturbed."

The sheriff said he never shared the information about Hyde's mental state with either Crown or defence lawyers, saying he only did so as a general rule when the prisoner was violent.

After the Taser was used, Hyde was rushed to a hospital. A psychiatric exam was supposed to occur, but that never happened.

Lawyers never got form regarding psychiatric exam
A doctor had filled out a form before Hyde was released from the hospital into police custody indicating that Hyde was to be brought back to the hospital if a forensic psychiatric exam wasn't ordered by the court.

The deputy sheriffs escorting Hyde did not give the form to lawyers handling the case because legislation at the time forbade them from sharing such information with anyone but health-care providers.

In the end, the judge presiding over the arraignment did not order a psychiatric assessment and Hyde was sent to the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility, where he died the next day after a scuffle with guards.

Crook said he informed the admissions officer at the provincial jail that Hyde had a violent past.

He also told the admissions officer that Hyde, who had a history of schizophrenia, "was a little bit off" and that Hyde had been jolted with a stun gun the night before.

He said Hyde would talk coherently with him about the court process at one point, only to suddenly fall silent and stare away moments later.

"He would say, 'I don't want to talk to you,' and then within seconds, before there was a chance for me to go away, he'd start to talk to me again," said Crook.

Crook said he had a discussion with Hyde about the possibility of being admitted to the mentally ill offenders unit at the correctional centre, but he testified that he didn't suggest that to lawyers or to jail officials.

"In my mind, his behaviour wasn't any more aberrant than a lot of our clientele," he said.

The fatality inquiry has been adjourned until Oct. 19.

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