Welcome to my Crime and Justice blog! I am a 19 year old criminal justice student at the University of Winnipeg. I advocate for prisoners' rights, human rights, equality and criminal justice/prison system reforms.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Charge to The Jury in the teen accused of triple murder in Winnipeg

A 17 year old male teen has been on trial for the past week and a half and is charged with three counts of first degree murder and three counts of attempted murder. Today, I had to opportunity to observe the Judge's charge to the jury, in which she explains the law and the charges and how they apply to the evidence. Deliberations will begin tonight, likely extending into tomorrow, as the jury has a lot to decide upon.

Here is what the Judge told the jury with my opinion on the case to follow: 
Firstly, the teen is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Simply being charged with an offence does not mean the person is guilty. The Crown must prove the accused's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Of course, the proof does not have to be absolutely certain, as that is almost impossible in any case, but the jury must be satisfied that this accused committed these offences. 

Howard Roulette's inconsistent testimony, should bring the jury to be concerned, said the Judge. They should look at the reasons or explanations that he offered for having inconsistent testimony. He admitted that he initially lied to police because he was scared that they were going to charge him. He provided the explanation that he was inconsistent due to the fact that he did not read over his statements and transcripts thoroughly and that some details "slipped his mind."

Roulette also had a fair amount of previous convictions including failure to appear in court, forcible confinement and numerous assaults. This could bring the jury to conclude that Roulette is dishonest, is lying and is not reliable or trustworthy.

Defence suggested that Roulette was the shooter and not the teen on trial, however, Roulette denied this statement made to him. 

But does the evidence show that he is responsible?
He claims that he had no choice and was forced at gunpoint to drive the two shooters to the house party where he alleges, they planned to "shoot the place up." He said he was scared. Is there any confirmatory evidence to what Roulette is saying? Not in my opinion. 

Gunshot residue was found on the drivers' side of Roulette's car and he was the only one driving that night. He was also offered by the two alleged shooters, $1000 if he agreed to participate in the shootings. Maybe this is why he did not call police at any point or attempt to leave the house party while he alleges that the other two, were inside shooting. He also drove both accused back to there house, and I would suggest that he did this, to collect his money, not because he was scared. If he had truly been scared, he could have alerted the police or drove away when the shooters were in the house. 

No witnesses in the house, could describe the appearances of the shooters. 

First degree murder requires that the killings be planned AND deliberate with the intent to kill. 

Second degree murder requires the intent to kill or the intent to cause bodily harm which is likely to cause death. No planning or deliberations are required. 

For attempted murder, the accused must have attempted to kill with intent. 

Firing the gun and being reckless, is not enough to convict this teen of attempted murder. 

Based on the evidence that I have heard and seen, I do not believe Howard Roulette's testimony, at all. He is unreliable, untrustworthy and I believe that he actively participated in these killings, alongside both other accused. Since I do not believe his testimony, which is the only testimony that implicated the killings as planned and deliberate, I therefore do not think that this teen should be found guilty of first degree murder. I do not believe that this was a planned attack. I believe, it was random. 

I do believe, however, that this teen did participate in the killings and should be found guilty of second degree murder, on the basis of intent to kill the three that were killed that night.

I do not believe that this teen possessed the intent for attempted murder on the three individuals who were injured. I believe that he was just recklessly firing the gun and that their injuries happened by accident. Therefore, I feel that he should be acquitted of the 3 counts of attempted murder. 

If the jury finds this teen guilty of first or 2nd degree murder, I feel that he should be sentenced as a youth not an adult. I feel that an adult sentence would be too harsh and not effective as prison is criminogenic for youth, meaning it causes more crime and re-offending so therefore, the less prison time, the better. I don't think he belongs in an adult prison such as Stony as there are many violent offenders housed there, with pro criminal attitudes, values and behaviours, which he would likely learn. This is why prison is always referred to as the college for criminals. 

I believe that instead, this teen should be found guilty of 2nd degree murder and sentenced as a youth. The maximum youth sentence for 2nd degree is 7 years. 4 of those years must be served in custody and 3 of them under community supervision. 

If he was sentenced as an adult, the maximum sentence would be life imprisonment with no parole eligibility for between 10 and 25 years, which I feel, is too harsh.

If the jury happens to convict him of 1st degree, the maximum youth sentence is 10 years, 6 of which must be served in custody and 4 in the community. As an adult, he would face life imprisonment with no chance at parole for 25 years. This is far too harsh for a youth. 

However, there is also the issue that this teen, in my opinion, did kill three individuals. Therefore, the question can be raised, should be be sentenced as an adult and for a longer time period to account for three separate lives? It was a violent and random and senseless attack and maybe this should be taken into consideration. 

I wish there was a prison where teens sentenced as adults could go exclusively and not be mixed in with adult offenders. I just don't see that as a good idea or one that would have a positive impact on this young man's life.

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