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Why Hunter’s alleged killer isn’t charged with first-degree murder: Lawyer

A Winnipeg man faces second-degree murder charges in the death of Hunter Haze Straight Smith, 3.
A Winnipeg man faces second-degree murder charges in the death of Hunter Haze Straight Smith, 3. Facebook

A former Manitoba Deputy Attorney General says the reason for a second-degree murder charge in the horrific stabbing death of three-year-old Hunter Haze Straight Smith is likely due to a very narrow definition of what constitutes first-degree murder.

Local lawyer Bruce MacFarlane told 680 CJOB that there are only a limited number of circumstances that can support a first-degree charge, citing the killing of a police officer and killing in the midst of a kidnapping or sexual assault.

READ MORE: Time needed to upgrade charges in Hunter Straight Smith’s death, say Winnipeg police

“The facts as we know them can only be described as horrific, appalling, revolting… but that’s not the basis for a charge,” said MacFarlane.

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“The key here is whether the Crown and the police can show that the killing was planned and deliberate. I think it’s fairly clear the killing was deliberate, but the key is whether it was planned, and I’m not sure about that.

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“Whether if it was, for instance, a last-minute decision, whether it was not considered, whether it was impulsive… but we don’t know the evidence that led to a second-degree murder charge.”

READ MORE: Charges upgraded to second-degree murder in stabbing death of Hunter Haze Straight Smith

Toddler stabbed in Winnipeg has died, family says
Toddler stabbed in Winnipeg has died, family says

The accused, 33-year-old Daniel Jensen, is also charged with an earlier assault on the young child’s mother.

Investigators allege Jensen was with the child’s mother, Clarise Smith, at a Main Street bar when the two got into a fight and she was assaulted.

They say he then went to a home in the 300 block of Pritchard Avenue, where three-year-old Hunter was stabbed multiple times.

MacFarlane said there’s a big difference between first- and second-degree murder charges when it comes to sentencing.

“It’s life in prison for both,” he said. “The difference is the point at which you might become eligible for parole.”

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On a first-degree conviction, he said, the perpetrator is only eligible for parole after 25 years. For second-degree murder, that’s reduced to 10 years, but the judge can use his or her discretion to increase that if necessary.

Vigil held for fatally stabbed toddler in Winnipeg
Vigil held for fatally stabbed toddler in Winnipeg