The 26-year mystery of who killed Candace Derksen has been solved.

Obviously, I wasn’t in the jury room at the trial of Mark Grant, accused of first-degree murder in Candace Derksen’s 1984 death.

Friday night, jurors who heard the evidence in the case found him not guilty of that charge, but guilty of second-degree murder.

While some say that’s an indication the schoolgirl’s death wasn’t planned or premeditated, it strikes me that that wasn’t the basis for charging Grant with first-degree.

The Crown alleged Grant forcibly confined Derksen, and therefore should be convicted of first degree, as the Criminal Code states.

In his instructions to the jury, Justice Glenn Joyal gave them a decision tree sheet that took them through the requisite steps they would need to go through to get to a conviction of first degree by forcible confinement.

I lay it out here below, in as best detail as my note taking skills allow:

  1. “Did Mark Grant abandon the hog-tied Candace Derksen in sub-zero temperatures?” If no, you must find him not guilty. If yes, move on to the next question.
  2. “Did Mark Grant’s abandonment of Candace Derksen cause her death?” If no, you must find him not guilty. If yes, move on to the next question.
  3. “Did Mark Grant have the state of mind to commit murder?” If no, you must find him not guilty of first degree murder, but guilty of manslaughter. If yes, move on to the next question.
  4. “Did Mark Grant do something that was ‘essential, substantial and integral’ to the killing of Candace Derksen?” If no, you must find him not guilty of first-degree murder, but guilty of second-degree murder. If yes, move on to the next question.
  5. “Did Mark Grant commit an offence under sec. 235 CC (forcible confinement)?” If no, you must find him not guilty of first-degree murder, but guilty of second-degree murder. If yes, move on to the next question.
  6. “Was the forcible confinement distinct and independent from the act of killing?” If no, you must find him not guilty of first degree murder, but guilty of second-degree murder. If yes, move on to the next question.
  7. “Was the forcible confinement and murder of Candace Derksen part of the same series of events?” If no, you must find him not guilty of first-degree murder, but guilty of second-degree murder. If yes, Grant must be guilty of first-degree murder.

We’ll never know how the jury arrived at their decision to acquit on the charge of first-degree, but convict on second degree.

And, as Wilma Derksen eloquently writes here, the ‘why’ of the case still remains a mystery. And in the ‘why’ is closure.

Being able to take in at least some of this trial was a privilege.

3 thoughts on “Derksen: how it ended as second-degree murder

  1. My guess would be that they didn’t think tying her up was ‘distinct and independent’ from the act of killing. She died because she was tied up and outside in a Manitoba winter. Being tied up was inherent to her death.

    Chief Justice Joyal doesn’t make my list of favourite people on a good day, but he’s usually right on the law. My likely guess is #6 was a no.

    This is one where I really wish I could have followed- as I think the public has a very distorted view of the limits of DNA evidence.

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