Decision reserved in La Loche school shooter appeal
The fate of a man described as a disengaged loner is in the hands of a panel of judges, more than three years after he went on a shooting rampage.
The La Loche school shooter killed four people and injured seven others in January 2016. He killed brothers Dayne and Drayden Fontaine at a northern Saskatchewan home before driving to La Loche’s high school and killing teacher Adam Wood and teacher’s aide Marie Janvier.
Last May, judge Janet McIvor handed down an adult sentence of life in prison with no parole for 10 years. The gunman was 15 days shy of his 18th birthday at the time of the killings.
The gunman appeared via closed-circuit video Thursday as defence lawyer Aaron Fox argued his client should have been sentenced as a youth. His identity remains under a publication ban until the conclusion of the appeal process or if he receives a youth sentence.
The shooter is serving his sentence in a maximum-security prison in British Columbia, receiving no psychiatric help, doing little more than playing cards, Fox said in court.
Three judges from the Court of Appeal in Regina considered the application before reserving their decision.
The maximum youth sentence would be six years incarceration followed by four years of supervision in the community.
Fox said the judge should have considered the shooter’s low IQ, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and numerous mental disorders in her decision.
“We are dealing with an individual who is operating at a level far lower than his chronological age,” Fox said in court.
The lawyer read from transcripts of teachers who cited concerns with his school performance as early as Grade 1. Through elementary and high school, Fox said his client never received the supports he needed and “fell through the cracks.”
He also noted how teachers described daily cannabis use that left the now 21-year-old feeling “blazed” in class. He was isolated and expressed little emotion, according to the defence.
Another error by the judge, according to Fox, was that she didn’t recommend an Intensive Rehabilitative Custody and Supervision (IRCS) sentence. The measure is designed as a therapeutic approach for violent offenders with mental health issues.
During sentencing proceedings, the provincial head of the program said the shooter was too old and an IRCS sentence wouldn’t be appropriate.
The defence also rejected the judge’s conclusion that the killings were “sophisticated” as described in her decision.
“He was confronted with a situation and reacted wrongly to it,” Fox said.
“I just don’t know how you could possibly describe this as a sophisticated plan,” he continued, stating there was no disguise or escape plan involved.
Crown prosecutor Bev Klatt told court there was relative sophistication and planning. The shooter talked about it with a friend the previous September.
She described the shooter as “predatory” as he scanned the school before returning to his vehicle to grab his gun and before opening fire at the school.
He also researched guns and ammunition types, along with watching internet videos about school shootings.
“All of the planning and deliberation and execution of this plan … did not support a finding that he had diminished blameworthiness,” Klatt told reporters.
La Loche Mayor Robert St. Pierre travelled to Regina for the appeal hearing. He wants to see the adult sentence upheld.
“The community wants to move forward. The community wants to heal,” St. Pierre said.
By going through the court process spanning three years, the “victims get re-victimized,” he added.
There is no scheduled date for judges to return with a decision.
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