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Surprise guilty plea derails Kelowna manslaughter trial

Noah Vaten broke down in court on Tuesday morning, returning in the afternoon with a guilty plea
Kelowna Law Courts. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)

In an unexpected turn of events on what was supposed to be the last day of his manslaughter trial, Noah Vaten has pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

As the trial resumed on Tuesday morning, Sept. 28, Vaten admitted to having “flashbacks” of certain details regarding the July 1, 2018 attack that killed Esa Carriere. He recalled stabbing the knife that the Crown alleged he used to kill Carriere into the grass near Memorial Arena, a memory which he said came back to him this past weekend.

As the Crown showed Vaten a video of a group of figures chasing after Carriere on Tuesday, Vaten broke down into what appeared to be a panic attack just before the lunch break.

Coming back after the break, Vaten changed his plea to guilty. His lawyer, Glenn Verdurmen, said that Vaten’s argument has always been that he couldn’t remember details of what happened the night Carriere was killed.

Vaten never said that he didn’t play a role in Carriere’s murder, said Verdurmen. Verdurmen also said that the trial, particularly this past weekend, has jarred some memories in Vaten and that Vaten said he wanted to accept responsibility for what he has done.

Verdurmen has also asked the court to order a Gladue report to be written, a report that gives the judge the information they need to make the best decision possible when setting an Indigenous person’s bail or sentence. Vaten disclosed that he is Indigenous earlier in the trial.

Following Vaten’s change in plea, his co-accused, Nathan Truant, also pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of assault. However, he maintains a not-guilty plea to the manslaughter charge.

Throughout the trial, much of the focus was on Vaten — the Crown alleging he dealt the fatal stab wound to Carriere’s heart.

The case has been winding through the justice system for almost three years — Vaten and Truant were both charged in January 2019 — with several delays caused by COVID-19 and the appointment of the Crown prosecutor working the case as a Provincial Court judge. Vaten had spent much of the last week on the stand reviewing video footage from that night before and after the killing as he was questioned by both his own lawyer and Crown prosecutors.

A sentencing hearing for both Vaten and Truant has not been set but is expected to be determined on October 13.

READ MORE: Accused killer’s hazy memory leads to vague answers during Kelowna manslaughter trial

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