Judge voices concerns during murder sentencing about safety at Stony Mountain Institution
A Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench Justice voiced concern about a series of homicides at Stony Mountain Institution as three men received life sentences Friday for their roles in “a brutal, grotesque killing” of another inmate.
Court heard Max Richard, 42, died Jan. 7, 2018 in what the Crown described as a coordinated attack in a prison dining room which may have been gang-related.
Three other inmates: Victor Travis Ross, Michael Frank Okemow and Wilfred George Cook each pleaded guilty for their roles in the attack which lasted about one minute and was captured on the prison’s surveillance cameras.
“This was a brazen display,” Justice Chris Martin told court. “Two of the people attacking him had prison-made weapons.”
“It’s a horrific set of circumstances.”
Court heard Richard’s killing was the first of five homicides which have occurred at Stony Mountain Institution over the past 18 months.
Martin told court something must be done to bring to light the cause of the deaths and that there “must be a public airing of the circumstances.”
“I’m very concerned as to what is going on,” Martin told court. “We obviously as judges send people to jail and we do it in a circumstance where we’re not expecting to condemn that prisoner to injury, death or serious bodily harm.”
“It’s very easy for us to say or for people to say in the community, ‘oh well it’s just another criminal,’” Martin told court. “It must be taken very seriously anytime someone’s injured or killed.”
“Bottom-line what I’m saying in all of these circumstances is somehow there has to be some learnings or understandings to prevent this type of killing from taking place again or serious bodily harm from taking place again.”
Martin agreed to joint recommendations between the Crown and defence lawyers for the three men involved in Richard’s death.
“There’s not even a moderate, barest minimum of humanity shown in the circumstances to Mr. Richard in this case,” Martin told court.
Cook pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and received a life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years.
Ross pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and received a life sentence with no chance of parole for 20 years.
Okemow pleaded guilty to manslaughter and received a life sentence with no chance of parole for 10 years.
The Crown told court Richard, who was serving a life sentence at the time of his death, suffered 51 areas of injury.
Video played in court shows the attack was started by Ross on the second-floor of “Range H.”
Court heard Ross stabbed Richard in the back four times, punched him in the head and then threw him over a railing onto the main floor where Ross stomped Richard and stabbed him several more times.
Court heard Okemow punched, kneed and kicked Richard after he was thrown over the railing.
Cook stabbed Richard multiple times.
“There was 30 stabbing motions by these offenders,” Crown attorney Brent Davidson told court. “The autopsy revealed 27 sharp-force instrument injuries.”
“They connected on almost every single chance they had.”
Justice Martin asked each of the men if they wanted to explain what took place but they declined.
Court heard pre-sentence Gladue reports were waived for all three men but each of their defence lawyers told court their clients have experienced difficulty in their lives due to their parents or grandparents involvement in the residential school system as well as their own involvement in the child welfare system.
Under the Criminal Code judges are required to consider information about an Indigenous person’s background when deciding on a sentence.