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Justice

Judge hears details of Łútsël K’é chief investigations


The Chief of the Łútsël K’é Dene First Nation appeared in court on Tuesday as lawyers argued over admissibility of an “utterance” and other legal matters.

Darryl Marlowe has pleaded not guilty to two impaired driving charges dating to just over a year ago and is assumed innocent unless found guilty. His NWT Territorial Court trial is set for May 11 in Łútsël K’é.

Tuesday’s hearing before Judge Jeannie Scott examined two separate RCMP investigations regarding Marlowe on January 3, 2021 – one regarding an assault and one regarding impaired driving. Assault charges against Marlowe were subsequently stayed.

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Crown prosecutor Billi Wun said he was tasked with demonstrating that police did not act inappropriately in their handling of those twin investigations.

“What the Crown has to prove is that the police acted in accordance with their knowledge at each stage of the investigation and, [at the time of Marlowe’s arrest, had] no intention of pursuing the separate, unrelated investigation,” said Wun.

“While these two are separate investigations – the assault and the impaired operation – the information … came in at roughly the same time. So it’s very hard to separate them, which is why this matter is a bit more complicated.”

RCMP Corporal Harland Venema, who has since transferred to British Columbia, said by video he began two separate investigations that day.

The former commanding officer of the two-person Łútsël K’é detachment said he had been asleep before receiving two phone calls, minutes apart. The first reported an assault in progress at Marlowe’s house and that “he was going crazy,” while the second said the same person had crashed a snowmobile in front of the fire hall.

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When he arrived at the scene, the officer said he found Marlowe in a “very diminished level of consciousness” beside a badly damaged snowmobile, with a crowd in attendance.

Venema said Marlowe needed immediate medical attention. He and a colleague transported him to the nearby health centre.

Marlowe was medevaced to Yellowknife and returned to the community about two weeks later, still in some pain and on medication.

According to Venema, Marlowe’s wife – in a statement later on January 3 – said Marlowe had consumed a mickey of alcohol before an argument broke out when he refused to go to bed after watching a hockey game on TV.

Another family member told police she observed Marlowe getting on the snowmobile and driving off before crashing.

Venema said he made a legal request to obtain blood samples taken from Marlowe at Stanton Territorial Hospital.

In March 2021, the Crown stayed two counts of assault against the 34-year-old Marlowe. As reported by the CBC at the time, the Crown said it had reviewed the available evidence and felt Marlowe was unlikely to be convicted.

Marlowe is next scheduled to appear at a hearing in Yellowknife on May 10, prior to his judge-only trial the following day in Łútsël K’é.

Łútsël K’é has banned alcohol. Marlowe, elected to a second term in October 2020, was reportedly the First Nation’s youngest-ever chief when first elected in March 2017.

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