Trial ends with surprise manslaughter plea

The Supreme Court-ordered retrial of two men accused of murder came to a surprise conclusion Tuesday when the pair pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter.

The accused, both 37, will serve two years and one year respectively in addition to the four years they have been in custody.

“These decisions are always extremely difficult,” Crown prosecutor Gary Belecki said of the protracted negotiations that led to the guilty pleas for the drunken beating death of the victim on Oct. 21,1992.

The men were convicted of second-degree murder in 1993 and received life terms with the accused not eligible for parole for 12 years and the accomplice for 14 years. Their appeal to the Supreme Court was based on the defence they were so drunk they couldn’t have formed the intent to pummel the victim, 24, to death.
Except for a stint on bail after the Supreme Court ordered the second trial, the accused were in custody since the 1992 slaying on the grounds of the downtown YWCA.

In announcing the plea and sentencing arrangement, Belecki stressed the courts often give two years credit for every year an alleged offender sits in custody prior to final conviction.

Given that ratio, Belecki said the sentences equate to 10 years for Randy and nine years for the accused.

Negotiations began on the second day of the new trial after prosecution witness told court about a stroke he suffered after the murder.

While the witness told Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Mel Shannon he didn’t think the stroke impaired his memory of the event, he agreed that his overall memory could have been affected.

Questioned by defence lawyers Paul Brunnen and Pat Fagan, the victim insisted he remembered seeing the two kick and punch Prosper even though crime scene photographs showed a number of visual obstructions, and it was dark during the 1:30 a.m. incident.

The witness also told Fagan he was not able to identify the two accused at the preliminary hearing, nor could he identify the two at this second trial.

Belecki told court that crime lab evidence performed before more precise DNA testing emerged – found blood on the accomplices clothes and the accused running shoes which was merely consistent with the victims.

Making a conviction on the second-degree charge more difficult given the Supreme Court ruling, Belecki said the three Calgary police officers who arrested the the accused observed that both were drunk or severely intoxicated.

Before Shannon accepted the joint sentencing submission, Fagan told court that the accused wanted to pass along his “deepest regrets” to the victim’s family.

“He (the accused) has agonized over what occurred. It is something that will remain with him for the entirety of his life,” Fagan added.

“I’m sorry for a lot of things. That’s all,” the accomplice said before he and the accused were hand¬cuffed and escorted into the courthouse cells.