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.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Abused teen's sentencing hearing in Brando -- Shot mom and sister

BRANDON -- A teen who shot his adoptive mom and sister broke down and wept in court Monday when asked to recall killing his five-year-old sister.
The 17-year-old slumped over in the witness box and sobbed as Crown attorney Jim Ross began to describe the girl’s wounds.
Following court, a relative of the victims said it was about time the killer showed some emotion — her family still struggles with their feelings years later.
"The emotions that he showed are what we feel every day," she said. "It’s been three years but that’s what we feel every single day."
The youth’s tears came on Day Three of his sentencing hearing in Brandon Court of Queen’s Bench. He has pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree murder for the Aug. 24, 2007, shootings at the family home near St. Lazare.
He was 14 years old at the time, and the hearing before Justice Robert Cummings will determine whether he’s to be sentenced as a youth or an adult.

He took the stand, claiming he shot his adoptive mother after suffering years of abuse.
When he was younger, he was hit daily, he said. His mom would hit and kick him, sometimes striking him with a slipper, a belt or TV cable cords.
When he was 11 or 12 years old, she’d held a knife to his throat and on another occasion burned his leg with a cigarette, he said.
He said he never fought back, but snapped the day of the shootings.
"I thought I couldn’t take it any more."
His mom was scolding him for not doing his yard work properly and dragged him by his hair, called him a liar, threatened to send him back to Child and Family Services and began to hit him.
He said he crawled to his parents’ bedroom and, while barring the door with his feet, managed to grab the .22 rifle from under the bed, reached into a dresser drawer for ammunition and loaded the gun.
He said his mom then flung the door open but ran for the kitchen after she spotted the rifle. He was afraid she was going to grab a knife, he said, and "That’s when it happened."
While his sister was in the home at the time, the teen never mentioned shooting her during questioning by his lawyer, Bob Harrison.
However, he broke down when Ross described how the boy had shot the girl four times, twice in the head.
When pressed by Ross for a reason why he’d shot the five-year-old, the youth couldn’t explain. He said he didn’t mean to and it was only a short time later that he realized what he’d done.
Ross also pointed to numerous inconsistencies in the teen’s account of the shooting.
He questioned how he managed to bar the bedroom door with his feet, while lying or sitting down, yet still managed to reach blindly into a drawer to find ammunition and load the gun with 14 rounds without dropping a shell.
Ross also wondered how the mother had been shot in the side of her head — three times — if she was shot with her back to the youth while running away.
And despite the teen’s assertion he was struck by his mom numerous times, there were no bruises in the photos police took of him two days later.
His father also previously testified that he saw no evidence that his wife abused his son, and her sisters said they’d never seen her strike her boy.
The hearing continues today.

A Manitoba teen testified Monday that long-term abuse led him to shoot and kill his mother, but he can't say why he also turned the gun on his five-year-old sister and fatally shot her too.
The 17-year-old testified on his own behalf during the continuation of a sentencing hearing in Brandon.
The youth was 14 when he shot and killed the 43-year-old woman as well as his sister at a St. Lazare, Man., farmhouse in August 2007.
The teen, who cannot be identified under provisions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act, was initially charged with two counts of first-degree murder.
A trial was set to begin Jan. 11, 2010, but it was delayed and on Jan. 14 the teen pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in a Brandon courtroom
The Crown is seeking an adult sentence for the teen, meaning he would have to spend 10 years behind bars before being eligible for release.

Abuse alleged

The teen told court in a quiet voice that his adoptive mother often hit him with objects like belts, cables from a videogame console and, on one occasion, a shovel.
It was during one of these beatings that he grabbed a rifle from his parents' room, loaded it and shot the woman, he said.
Under cross-examination from the Crown attorney, however, the teen couldn't say why he also shot his sister four times. He broke down into uncontrollable sobs when the prosecutor pressed him for answers.
The crown pointed out the boy's testimony in court differed from accounts of the crime he told counsellors after the incident.
The teen's claims of being abused are disputed by his mother's family, who testified last week the woman was loving, caring and in no way abusive.
Outside the courtroom, family members showed the media pictures of the family from happier times and said both of them were loved dearly.
On more than one occasion, visibly upset family members present on Monday for the hearing had to leave the courtroom during the teen's testimony.
The hearing continues this week.

I think the teen is telling the truth about being abused. You don't lie about serious stuff like that. I have sympathy for him and completely understand why he killed his mother, if long term abuse did occur. Instead of the Battered Woman's Syndrome defence, there should be an abuse defence which is universal across all ages and all genders. The teen probably was in a mental state of learned helplessness, where he saw no way out and saw no other reasonable options. I believe this teen should NOT be sentenced as an adult. Rehabilitation and reintegration need to be the main goals and focuses for teens. The maximum youth sentence for second degree murder is 7 years, with 4 years in custody and 3 years under conditional supervision in the community. I believe this teen should be sentenced to 5 years, with 3 years in custody and 2 years under mandatory supervision in the community.  

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