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.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Three men were sentenced for alleged roles in stabbing

WINNIPEG — Three men were sentenced to much different prison terms Monday for their roles in a stabbing death outside a downtown Winnipeg bar
Glen Monkman, 39, was given a mandatory life sentence with no chance of parole for at least 12 years after being convicted last month of second-degree murder. The Crown was seeking to raise parole eligibility to 15 years, while defence lawyers wanted it to remain at the minimum of 10.
Carlos Tavares, 31, received five years in prison in addition to one year of time in custody after jurors found him guilty of manslaughter. The Crown was seeking eight more years behind bars.
Norris Ponce, 31, was given two years in jail years in addition to one year of time served. The Crown wanted five more years of prison.
All three men had originally been charged with first-degree murder, which carries an automatic sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years if convicted.
Ming Hong Huynh, 24, was knifed outside Club Desire on Bannatyne Avenue in April 2006.
Monkman admitted stabbing Huynh four times in the chest and cheek with a small knife while horrified bystanders watched but claimed he should only be found guilty of manslaughter based on the fact he was provoked.
Ponce was accused of distracting Huynh on the street before Monkman stabbed him. Tavares was accused of driving a getaway car, a cream-coloured Lincoln Navigator, away from the stabbing. Lawyers for both had argued there was no credible evidence linking them to the attack and they should have been acquitted entirely.
The key issue at trial was whether they believed the testimony of the Crown’s star witness, Danny Simao, who claims he overheard a plan to kill Huynh while inside a car with the three accused,
Defence lawyers argued at trial that Simao was a proven liar whose evidence should have been rejected.
No murder weapon was ever recovered. The Crown argued the accused planned the attack on Huynh as revenge for another stabbing that happened at a wedding social in March 2006.
Before the attack, court heard Huynh was wandering around shirtless outside the club. His girlfriend, Angie Pfeifer, testified Huynh used steroids and cocaine. The Red River College business administration student was intoxicated and looking to fight when he got into a fight with an Asian man alleged to be Ponce.

The first bias/problem in this article is the headline. It says "three men sentenced for roles in stabbing death." By saying this, assumes that they all played a role in the stabbing (which may not be true). Just because the men were convicted by a jury, does not mean that it is 100% true and that does not make it a FACT, which this headline implies/suggests. It should say "alleged."

This article does not allocate enough space to explain in detail, the contradictions in Simao's testimony, which were many and which could change readers' perspectives. It mentioned that the lawyers said that there was "no credible evidence linking them," but they failed to explain why and just how unreliable and unbelievable this witness really was. Readers are not getting the full picture of all the evidence. 

By only writing about the evidence of Simao's testimony which supports the Crown's theory and not the defence, sways readers to one side of the argument where they will come to believe the witness, simply because the media does not report counter/contradictory evidence of the testimony. 

The article mentioned the Crown's arguments but did not say much about the arguments of the 3 mens' defence lawyers, which is biased towards one side, and influencing the readers to take a certain position towards this case, which is one that the sentences were too lenient. This is not true and is giving the public a skewed perception. 

The article did not mention the fact that the victim had been attempting to fight with many people that night and was aggressive, intoxicated and provoking. Norris Ponce, was simply another person being victimized by this man, but the article paints Ponce as anything but a victim. 

This article also did not pay enough attention to the offenders' background, as they did with the victim. They did not receive a fair representation. They have children and families and that should have been mentioned because prison also had a significant impact on offenders' families and lives. It should have also mentioned the fact that Ponce has had no previous convictions and the criminal histories of the other offenders.

Also, after stating the sentences and then saying, "The Crown wanted this much more," implies that the sentences were too lenient, when in reality, they were too harsh (in my opinion)! The article does not state what sentences the defence were seeking. 

Three to jail in stabbing death 
The three men convicted in the 2006 stabbing death of 24-year-old Red River College student Minh Hong Huynh were all handed significant prison terms Monday afternoon.
Glen Monkman, 39, was convicted by a jury last month of second-degree murder for fatally stabbing Huynh outside the former Main Street bar Club Desire on April 30, 2006. Carlos Tavares, 30, and Norris Ponce, 31, were convicted by the same jurors of manslaughter for their roles in the crime, which the Crown said involved "encouraging and assisting" Monkman.
Justice Brenda Keyser sentenced all three to jail time Monday.
Monkman was handed an automatic life sentence, as are all offenders convicted of murder. He will not be eligible for parole for 12 years, which is part way between the Crown's suggestion of 15 and the defence's preference of 10. Keyser heard the sentencing arguments earlier this month.
Tavares was given a seven-year sentence, minus two years for time served, leaving five to go.
Ponce got a four-year sentence minus two years for time served. Both of their sentences fell between the terms suggested by the Crown and defence at the sentencing hearing.
Tavares told the gallery as he was leaving court Monday that he hopes to appeal. He did not say whether he hopes to appeal his conviction or his sentence.

By the headline saying "three to death in stabbing" implies and gives the impression that all three men were involved in this attack, when that may not be true. That is not based on fact, as two men played "roles" (which I think is untrue). It also only mentions the Crown's argument of the other 2 men encouraging Monkman and does not mention the defence argument, countering that. Like the WFP article, it does not mention anything about the background lives of these offenders, the contradictions in Simao's testimony, etc. and makes it appear as if all of these men are guilty, no question about it, which is not true. There was contradictory evidence and it fails to mention that.

My opinion?
I completely disagree with the sentences of Tavares and Ponce. I do feel that Monkman should have been found guilty of 2nd degree murder, but should have gotten no parole eligibility for 10 years not 12, as he may have been provoked by the victim. The article did not mention the victim's possible role his killing, such as the fact that he was acting aggressively and was provoking people and wanting to start a fight. 

I completely disagree with Ponce's sentence. He should have been acquitted in the first place, because Simao's testimony was completely unreliable and I don't see how any reasonable person would believe anything he said. He had been on bail for at least 2 years prior to the trial and had obeyed all of his conditions, came to court early everyday and was a productive and law abiding citizen. He also has children and a wife. I think that because his bail was successful, he should have been sentenced to a community sanction such as a conditional sentence. Just think of the damaging effect and impact prison will have on his children and wife? I feel horrible for them. In this case, I do not believe the judge considered all alternatives besides prison, which she should have. Ponce is not a dangerous man to society, is not violent in any way (because he never killed anybody, only allegedly played a "role") and is not high risk. I truly believe he was wrongfully convicted and sentenced. 

The same goes for Tavares. Simao's testimony should not have been believed. Ponce or Tavares claimed that they knew nothing of the killing and were not involved. Simao's testimony was the only thing that contradicted that, except for one problem: he was unreliable and unbelievable. Also, no other evidence corroborated Simao's testimony. What does that tell you? Tavares should have been acquitted also. I don't agree with his sentence and feel he should have been given a conditional sentence also.

The Crown did not prove Tavares/Ponce guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

I left a comment about this story on the Winnipeg Free Press that read: I realize that the jury system is a cornerstone of our criminal justice system, but I also feel that there are many flaws in the jury system and just because a jury convicts an individual, does not make it a fact, that they committed the crime. Look at all the wrongfully convicted individuals who were also convicted by juries.

Also, from studying social psychology, know that when one person has a dominant position, others may be influenced to conform, even when they may not agree. It begs the question, is the jury really unanimous?

Something to think about.

I also believe that there are many factors which influence a jury's ultimate decision. Some could have read biased media reports or internet articles, the fact that the accuseds were in custody and in handcuffs paints the portrayal of guilt and not of innocence until proven guilty, juries have no formal training in the law and how to interpret it and apply it to the case. 

If we were to assume that when a jury makes a unanimous finding of guilt, that they are always correct and the accused is guilty, there would be a lot less wrongful convictions being discovered. Juries make mistakes all the time. Just think of the wrongfully convicted individuals in Canada, who had their cases decided by juries. It happens and we cannot assume anything.   

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