guilty plea

Joyriding Teen Pleads Guilty to Manslaughter in 2011 Police Death

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

A young man, known only as S.K., has recently pleaded guilty to charges of manslaughter for the death of York Regional Police Constable Garrett Styles. 

Following an appeal of his conviction and sentence, the Court of Appeal ordered a new trial for S.K.  Both the Crown prosecutors and lawyers for S.K. agreed on a plea deal.  S.K. was sentenced to two years probation and several conditions are in place regarding his operation of a motor vehicle. 

WHAT HAPPENED?

On June 28, 2011, 15 year-old S.K. took his father’s minivan for a drive with his friends, without his parents’ consent.

At 4:45 a.m., S.K. was stopped by Constable Styles for traveling 147 km/h in an 80 km/h zone.  S.K. was advised that the minivan would be impounded and he was repeatedly ordered to get out of the vehicle.  S.K. refused and pleaded with the officer to let him go.  Constable Styles proceeded to open the driver’s door and attempted to undo S.K.’s seat belt.  At that point, S.K.’s van began to move and Constable Styles was caught between S.K. and the steering wheel.  Constable Styles eventually jerked the steering wheel to the left causing the van to leave the highway, enter a ditch, proceed up an embankment, become airborne and roll 360 degrees.  Constable Styles was ejected from the van, which then fell on top of him.  He was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at the hospital.

As a result of this incident, S.K. suffered a spinal fracture that rendered him quadriplegic.

S.K. was charged with first-degree murder.  The key question at the trial was whether S.K. intended to drive away (alleged by the Crown prosecutor) or whether he accelerated by accident (alleged by the defence). 

S.K. was tried and a jury found that he intentionally accelerated and should have known that his actions were “likely” to lead to the death of the police officer.  S.K. was convicted and was sentenced to one day in custody in addition to time served (8 months) and a conditional supervision order for nine years to be served in the community. 

THE APPEAL

S.K. appealed his conviction on 5 separate grounds alleging that the trial judge made several legal errors. 

The three judge panel all agreed that the trial judge erred in failing to instruct the jury of the importance of S.K.’s age and level of maturity in assessing whether he knew his dangerous driving was likely to cause Constable Style’s death.

Justice Janet Simmons wrote:

This was a tragic case in which a police officer was killed as a result of the irresponsible acts of a headstrong 15-year-old.  In these circumstances, it was necessary for the trial judge to caution the jury that 15-year-olds do not have the same life experience as adults and that, as a result, a 15-year-old may not have the level of maturity to foresee the consequences of a particular course of action.

However, the judges of the appeal court panel disagreed as to whether the trial judge erred in excluding a statement that S.K. made to his father 26 days after the crash.  Following the crash, S.K. was intubated and unable to speak for three weeks. S.K. had told his father that he did not intentionally set the van in motion.  S.K.’s lawyers sought to introduce the statement as evidence of his state of mind during the police incident, however, the judge ruled against it.

Justice Simmons held that the statement should have been admitted “to respond to an implicit allegation of recent fabrication and to provide overall context for the jury about what the appellant had said close in time to the incident.” 

On the other hand, Justice Michael Tulloch and Justice David Brown ruled that the trial judge had made the right decision in not admitting the statement as evidence. 

On October 1, 2019, the appeal court allowed the appeal, set aside S.K.’s conviction and ordered a new trial.

GUILTY PLEA

Earlier this month, York Regional Police Services released a statement to confirm that a plea agreement had been reached between the Crown and S.K.  In coming to this decision, the Crown considered whether the family of Constable Styles could bear another trial and the impact another trial would have on witnesses, including first responders. 

Following numerous discussions between the parties, S.K. agreed to plead guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to two years probation and conditions were placed on his ability to operate a motor vehicle.

If you have been charged with a driving related offence or have questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the knowledgeable criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  Our skilled criminal defence lawyers have significant experience defending a wide range of criminal charges and protecting our client’s rights.  We offer a free consultation and are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Trust our experienced criminal lawyers to handle your defence with diligence, strategy and expertise.

McArthur Pleads Guilty and Awaits His Sentence

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Last week, Bruce McArthur (“McArthur”) pleaded guilty to eight counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of eight men who disappeared between 2010 and 2017 in Toronto’s Gay Village.

At his sentencing hearing this week, an agreed statement of facts was presented to the court. In the statement, McArthur admitted that he intended to kill all eight men and afterward dismembered the men to avoid getting caught. He admitted that six were sexual in nature and that he kept some of his victims’ personal items as “souvenirs” and “staged” some of his victims.

AGREED STATEMENT OF FACTS

The following are some of the facts included in the Agreed Statement of Facts that were presented before Justice John McMahon in the Ontario Superior Court:

  • McArthur intended and caused each of the eight deaths;
  • Each of the murders was planned and deliberate and the murders were committed in the course of sexually assaulting the victims or committed while the victims were unlawfully confined;
  • The investigation found a duffle bag in McArthur’s bedroom containing duct tape, a surgical glove, rope, zip ties, a black bungee cord, and syringes;
  • To avoid detection, McArthur dismembered his victims’ bodies; and
  • McArthur disposed of the body parts at 53 Mallory Crescent in Toronto, where he worked as a gardener, placing some of the body parts in planters or in the ravine adjacent to the property.

ACCEPTANCE OF A GUILTY PLEA

According to the Criminal Code, a conviction or finding of guilt is not entered until the court accepts the plea.

Under section 606(1.1) of the Criminal Code, a plea of guilty can only be accepted if the Court is satisfied of the following:

  • That the accused is making the plea voluntarily; and
  • That the accused understands that the plea is an admission of the elements of the offence; and
  • That the accused understands the nature and consequences of the plea; and
  • That the accused understands that the court is not bound by any agreement made between the accused and the Crown prosecutor.

Therefore, for a guilty plea to be valid it must possess all of the following features:

  • Voluntary;
  • Unequivocal;
  • Information of the nature of the allegations; and
  • Informed of the consequences of the plea.

Justice McMahon began McArthur’s court proceedings last week by confirming that McArthur understood what is meant to plead guilty and warned him that he could not plead guilty to things he did not do just to get his case over with. McArthur replied “Yes”, when asked if he understood that he was giving up his right to a trial.

McArthur confirmed that he was not pressured by family, friends, lawyers or police officers to plead guilty.

Justice McMahon explained that McArthur would be sentenced to life imprisonment. He specifically asked, “So, you understand you’ll have to serve at least until you’re 91 before you could be eligible to apply for parole?” McArthur responded, “Yes, your honour.”

Once a guilty plea has been entered, there is no burden on the Crown prosecutor to prove the charge beyond a reasonable doubt. Furthermore, a guilty plea also terminates any procedural rights, rights of appeal or the ability to challenge the ruling of guilt.

PROSECUTORS SEEK CONSECUTIVE LIFE SENTENCES

Crown prosecutors have asked the Superior Court of Justice to sentence McArthur to two consecutive life sentences for the eight murders that McArthur committed. This means that McArthur will be behind bars until he is 116 years old, without a chance for parole.

Assistant Crown attorney Craig Harper (“Harper”) argued that McArthur’s crimes were heinous, he preyed on the vulnerable and “[h]e spread fear in a community that, regardless of its multiple strengths, struggles with a tenuous sense of safety.”

In support of his request for two consecutive life sentences, Harper also put before the court that permitting McArthur a parole hearing in 25 years would mean that the families of his victims may have to face him again in court.

McArthur’s lawyer, on the other hand, requested that the court sentence his client to serve all eight sentences concurrently. This would mean that McArthur would serve all the sentences at the same time.

It is the position of McArthur’s defence lawyer that due to his age it is not necessary to extend his parole eligibility beyond the minimum 25 years, which comes with a life sentence. This means he would not be able to apply for parole until he was at least 91 years old. He argues that a longer sentence will be “unduly harsh”.

Justice McMahon will soon make a decision on McArthur’s sentence and we will provide updates in this blog as the information becomes available.

In the meantime, to speak with an experienced criminal defence lawyer about charges laid against you or your legal rights, please contact Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. We offer a free consultation and are available to help you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We are available when you need us most.