Justice With Dignity - Committee to Remember Kimberly Rogers

Kimberly Rogers Inquest Alerts

Kimberly Rogers Inquest - Friday, Nov. 1, 2002 - Day 14
Ontario Social Safety NetWork (OSSN) Summary

Testifying today was Grace Kurke, a lawyer from the Sudbury Community Legal Clinic.

During the cross-examination by Al O'Marra, the coroner's counsel, Ms. Kurke testified that she was not the source of information to Dr. Clendenning regarding Kimberly Rogers' attempted suicide in 1996. (Dr. Clendenning had previously testified that he thought Ms. Kurke may have been the source of this information.)

Ms. Kurke testified that on Monday, May 11th, 2001 she had faxed Dr. Clendenning's office at 9:26 am, a draft affidavit in the form of questions (copy of proof of transmission provided) with blanks left for the doctor's response. Questions included: Please provide information on how long Kimberly Rogers had suffered from depression? Is she at risk for suicide? Has she attempted suicide in the past?

Ms. Kurke also testified that she was not aware of Kimberly Rogers' suicide attempt in 1996 until she met with Kimberly Rogers, after having faxed the draft affidavit / questions to Dr. Clendenning's office. Her appointment with Kimberly Rogers was at 10 am. The fax to Dr. Clendenning had been faxed out at 9:26 am with the transmission completed by 9:30 am.

Dr. Clendenning completed his affidavit in his own handwriting and faxed it back to the legal clinic sometime on May 11, 2001. His affidavit included the mention of a 1996 suicide attempt by Ms. Rogers. Ms. Kurke testified that she did not receive the faxed transmission from Dr. Clendenning's office before her 10 am meeting with Ms. Rogers.

Later Mr. O'Marra asked Ms. Kurke to share what information she could provide regarding Kimberly's prior knowledge of the suspension of her benefits before her conviction. Mr. Buttazzoni had testified that the matter of the suspension of benefits was discussed with his client before her court appearance April 25,2001, when she pleaded guilty to the fraud charge and that he and Ms. Kurke had briefly discussed it when he alleged that Ms. Kurke had picked up the disclosure on Friday, May 11th which was two days before Ms. Rogers signed her first affidavit on May 13th.

Ms. Kurke testified that she had heard Mr. Buttazzoni's testimony the previous day (Oct. 31) and stated that Mr. Buttazzoni's testimony was not accurate. She providing the following details:

- On Thursday, May 10, 2001 Ms. Kurke tried to reach Mr. Buttazzoni by phone, without success, to request a copy of the Crown's disclosure.

- On Friday, May 11th, Ms. Kurke faxed Mr. Buttazzoni and indicated that she had tried to reach him on May 10th without success to discuss Kimberly Roger's Charter Challenge and to request a copy of the Crown's disclosure. Ms. Kurke also enclosed a copy of a signed release of information from Kimberly Rogers.

- On Monday, May 14th, Ms. Kurke received a call back from Mr. Buttazzoni's office advising that the disclosure of the Crown's brief was ready for pick up.

- Prior to picking up the document at Mr. Buttazzoni's office, Ms. Kurke testified that she emailed Sean Dewart, the Toronto lawyer working on the Charter Challenge, to advise that she was about to go to Mr. Buttazzoni's office and she asked if it would be helpful to Mr. Dewart to have a copy of the disclosure.

- Ms. Kurke testified that she received an email response from the Toronto lawyer confirming that "Yes, a copy would be helpful".

Entered as exhibits were the following documents:

* email text dd May 14th sent to Sean Dewart with copy to Ian Morrison, Director of the Clinic Resource Office.
* letter dd May 15th to Frank Addario (Mr. Dewart's legal partner) sent priority post with disclosure and copy to Kimberly Rogers.
* manifest from Priority Post and confirmation of receipt from Priority Post that something had been received.

Ms. Kurke's testified that Mr. Buttazzoni's testimony that she had picked up the disclosure on the Friday, May 10th, was incorrect -- Mr. Buttazzoni had testified that it was while Ms. Kurke had picked up the disclosure on the Friday that a discussion had taken place regarding the suspension of benefits. This is significant because Ms. Rogers signed an affidavit on May 13th in the presence of Ms. Kurke, swearing that she was not informed by Mr. Buttazzoni that she would receive a suspension of benefits upon conviction.

During Ms. Kurke's testimony, the jury heard testimony about the benefit supplement for pregnant women on social assistance ($37 a month) that had been discontinued by the province in 1999 and how the Greater City of Sudbury had continued to make a benefit supplement available to pregnant women on Ontario Works in the amount of $43 a month at 100% cost to the municipality.

The jury heard that Kimberly Rogers was never advised of the existence of this pregnancy benefit of $43 a month which could have greatly assisted her given the fact she only had $18 a month available to her once her rent and overpayment was taken care of. Ms. Kurke testified that she was also not aware of its existence so no efforts were made to pursue this amount for Ms. Rogers.

The jury also heard testimony from Ms. Kurke regarding the application to the Ontario Court of Appeal to appeal the conviction and sentence. This appeal had to be done within 30 days of the conviction. It was signed on May 24th by Ms. Rogers in front of Ms. Kurke who was acting as a local agent for Frank Addario, a Toronto lawyer and partner of Sean Dewart who was working on the Charter Challenge.

Ms. Kurke also testified that during her vacation July 16th to August 7th, she took a day of her vacation to meet with Kimberly Rogers on July 20th. It was the last time Ms.Kurke saw Kimberly Rogers alive. Ms. Kurke 's voice broke when she told the jury that she brought a card for Ms. Rogers' 40th birthday, along with some groceries. Ms. Kurke stated that she found Ms. Rogers to be in good spirits but that it was very hot in her apartment.

Mr. O'Marra later asked Ms. Kurke what recommendations she would want the jury to consider.

Ms. Kurke responded with the following:

- it would be useful to consider whether or not it should be required to tell a pregnant woman on social assistance that that there's a $43 pregnancy supplement available -- we later learned during the cross from the counsel representing Greater City of Sudbury that the pregnancy benefit no longer exists in Sudbury and that the province had introduced a new dietary benefit costing the province $30 a month as of September 2001.

- ask the jury to consider whether or not to make a recommendation that this law of automatic suspension be eliminated/removed as it causes undue hardship.

- in context of criminal case, a recommendation that the clerk of the court be required to make known the consequences of conviction -- i.e. automatic suspension of welfare benefits.

- recommendation to the Greater City of Sudbury to continue to pay benefits to individuals who have had automatic suspensions to their benefits. During the cross by Martin James, counsel representing Greater City of Sudbury, Ms. Kurke was asked of she was aware that there are 43 agencies delivering the Ontario Works program administered by municipalities throughout Ontario; and in light of that, would Ms. Kurke agree this recommendation would not be better off implemented provincially rather than locally. Ms. Kurke agreed.

Later, Mr. Travis, counsel for Ms. Kurke was permitted to question his client to clear up information for the jury stemming from the testimony of previous witnesses relevant to his client.

Ms. Kurke testified that if she had thought there was any problem with Ms. Rogers' affidavit she would have done something about it. This was in regards to Mr. Buttazzoni's testimony that Ms. Kurke and he had a conversation regarding Ms. Rogers prior knowledge of the suspension of benefits upon conviction which Ms. Rogers swore in her affidavit she was not made aware of prior to conviction.

Ms. Kurke also testified about a shopping trip she and Ms. Rogers took together on June 27th to obtain quotes for items that Ms. Rogers needed for the baby -- Ms. Kurke took a vacation day from work to do this with Ms. Rogers. Ontario Works recipients must put together a list of items required for a baby with the cheapest estimates available, in order to have items approved. Ms. Kurke read from the inventory of items listed in a handwritten document Ms. Rogers prepared prior to their meeting.

Ms. Kurke's voice broke again when she read two particular items from this list: a breast pump and a nursing bra. Ms. Kurke said, "That signifies, to me, she was interested in the well-being of her child. She was looking forward to the birth of her child...intending to nurse the baby after it was born."

The final question posed to Ms. Kurke came from Jennifer Scott, the lawyer for the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies (CAEFS) coalition. Ms. Scott asked Ms. Kurke if she ever had reason to believe, in her dealings with Ms. Rogers, that Ms. Rogers was suicidal.

Ms. Kurke responded that it was her opinion that it was an accidental death by overdose.

The Inquest continues on Monday, November 4th with the testimony of Patricia Wilkins, Probation & Parole Officer (Ms. Rogers' sentence supervisor).

Barbara Anello
Ontario Social Safety NetWork (OSSN)




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