Roulette’s legal chips dwindle

(The multi-plex where gang membersHenderson and Baptiste were killed on Jan 31, 2009)
(The Maryland Street multi-plex where gang members Jesse Henderson and Dennis Baptiste were killed on Jan 31, 2009)

It had all the usual signs of many riveting, yet unbelievably tragic, premeditated murder cases.

Two young, gang-linked men, Jesse Henderson and Dennis Baptiste — mysteriously and savagely cut down in the prime of their lives inside a Maryland Street four-plex after being seen at a cocaine-fuelled party at an Exchange District theme hotel.

A fire set in what appeared to be a failed attempt to destroy evidence at the crime scene. A missing TV set. Some, but not tons, of physical evidence to go on.

Blood everywhere.

And then came months and months of waiting for an arrest as Winnipeg police worked all kinds of different angles to try and get to the truth of things.

Such was the visible the backdrop to Kenneth Roulette’s trial, which ended in his conviction on two counts of first-degree murder.

But behind the scenes, one of the more interesting legal battles I’ve seen was playing out.

In June 2013, Roulette sought to have his charges tossed out, alleging a failure by prosecutors to disclose evidence in the case had effectively ruined his chance at defending against the charges.

The unusual move — in which Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Robert Dewar found there was delay caused by the Crown’s slowness to disclose — didn’t work and the trial went ahead a few months later.

The key evidence against Roulette was testimony from two unsavory witnesses, one of whom was (by time of trial) a deceased crack addict and naturally couldn’t be cross-examined beyond what defence lawyer Greg Brodsky was able to do at a preliminary hearing when Russell Glow was still alive and in witness protection.

It came as zero surprise to me that Roulette quickly launched an appeal after being convicted given the quirks in the case.

But this week, he found out he’d lost that fight too. Here’s Court of Appeal Justice Alan MacInnes’s reasons why that’s so.

It remains to be seen if Brodsky will take the case to the Supreme Court in hopes of winning a new trial for Roulette.

Derksen: how it ended as second-degree murder

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.