Skip to main content

'Rubbernecking': Regina man acquitted in brutal group beating in max unit of Sask. penitentiary

Joshua Bird is seen leaving Court of Queen's Bench in Regina on Friday, Feb. 14, 2014. Joshua Bird is seen leaving Court of Queen's Bench in Regina on Friday, Feb. 14, 2014.

A Regina man accused of aggravated assault in the brutal beating of an inmate in the maximum security wing of the Saskatchewan Penitentiary was acquitted this month.

In his written decision, Judge Richard Danyliuk drew on 17th Century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes to describe life in the max unit of the Prince Albert-based facility as “nasty, brutish and short.”

Joshua Bird was one of several inmates accused in the assault of Elwin Goodpipe, who was found beaten in his cell on Oct. 7, 2019 and taken to hospital for treatment.

According to Danyliuk, Goodpipe refused to cooperate with police in their investigation.

“Mr. Goodpipe did not want the police involved, refused to give any statement, and was generally uncooperative. Cst. Schmidt noted fairly severe head injuries to Mr. Goodpipe and that his head was very swollen as well as one arm being fractured. Mr. Goodpipe would not allow himself to be photographed,” the judge wrote in his March 1 decision.

With no participation from the victim, the Crown relied heavily on surveillance footage from outside the cell during the trial at the Prince Albert Court of King’s Bench, Danyliuk said.

In the footage, court saw Goodpipe enter his cell, followed by Bird and three other inmates. Bird stood with his hand on the jamb, only entering the cell briefly by a step or two for about eight seconds.

The Crown also submitted photos of Goodpipe’s cell into evidence.

“There was a very large amount of bloodstains in the cell,” wrote Danyliuk. “Most of the blood was on or near the bunk. However, he noted blood transfers of numerous types on all four walls, the floor, and even the ceiling. The photographs graphically depict and reflect what appears to have been a savage beating.”

In his defence, Bird testified that the group was playing cards in the common area when a dispute arose between Goodpipe and another inmate. When that inmate followed Goodpipe into his cell, Bird told the court he followed because he was hoping to see a one-on-one fight.

“Knowing about the range cameras and how they operated, Mr. Bird said he stayed in the doorway of the Goodpipe cell and did not enter except briefly. He said he kept his hand on the doorjamb so that it could be seen he was not going all the way into the cell. He testified he never fully entered the cell and took no active part in the assault on Mr. Goodpipe,” Danyliuk wrote.

“However, he watched Mr. Goodpipe being beaten into unconsciousness.”

Bird said he assumed the guards would see the men inside Goodpipe’s cell and intervene — just entering another inmate’s cell is a rule infraction in federal prison.

He testified that he did not want to actively alert the guards because it would “come back on him. He would get labelled as a ‘rat’ and would get stabbed.”

The Crown was trying to make the case that Bird was an active participant in the beating, and not just a spectator, as he contended.

But Danyliuk said the only evidence available as to Bird’s intention in standing at the entrance to Goodpipe’s cell was from Bird himself.

“The Crown called none of the other assailants, nor the victim,” he wrote.

“The Crown has failed to prove what Mr. Bird did or refrained from doing that assisted the other three inmates to effect the beating of Mr. Goodpipe.”

Ultimately, Danyliuk says he was left with a reasonable doubt that Bird intended to participate in the beating.

“He was, to borrow defence counsel’s phrasing, engaged in ‘rubbernecking’ — watching, in other words, and watching in and of itself is not a crime.” Top Stories

Stay Connected