Making sense of Lamb’s plea bargain: a how-to

(Re-blogged and untouched from the Winnipeg Free Press)

The equation is simple.

No evidence = no case. No case = no conviction.

So it’s curious to me to see so much angst and questioning of the plea deal and joint-recommendation that saw adouble killer sentenced to 20 years without a chance at parole for at least nine (3,285 days) for the killings of Carolyn Sinclair and Lorna Blacksmith. Not to mention he’s already been in for about 18 months.

We should be sending thank-you cards to the Manitoba Prosecution Service for the deal they were able to reach and secure with defence lawyer Martin Glazer in the Shawn Lamb case, which puts Lamb behind bars for a very long time.

In fact, it was said many times in court Lamb could die in jail before he gets out.

Instead, there’s now wide-spread criticism of a very good deal. And a profound lack of understanding, apparently, about the plea bargaining process, how it works and how our justice system would grind to a halt without it.

Instead of haranguing you further, I simply present senior Crown attorney Sheila Leinburd’s fantastic and frank explanation in court regarding the plea deal, why it was arrived at, and what the alternative really was. (The facts of the case are here).

Usually, explanations of the how and why of plea arrangements aren’t nearly as comprehensive.

For the record:

It is clear upon perusal of all the facts before the court, this investigation was inherently both challenging and difficult for the City of Winnipeg police department.

Despite the best efforts and lengthy investigation of the Winnipeg Police Service, there is very limited evidence available to the Crown.

There are no witnesses to these two homicides. There was extremely limited forensic evidence.

And given the passage of time prior to the discovery of the bodies and the consequent deterioration of the bodies due to the exposure to the elements, there were limited medical findings in each of the autopsy reports – to the point in the instance of the death of Lorna Blacksmith there was no determined cause of death.

Consequently, the description of the killing of both of these women is left to be taken exclusively from the accused’s own statement.

The conviction of Shawn Lamb therefore rests solely on his statements to the police, and on the admissibility into evidence of those statements.

Were there to be a voir dire on the admissibility of Lamb’s statements, uncertainty existed as to whether or not the statements would, in fact, be ruled admissible by the court.

There are persuasive arguments that can be made on the part of the Crown as to the admissibility of these statements.

Equally, there are compelling arguments that can be made by the defence to the exclusion of the statements.

Consequently, and after careful examination of this exigency by the Crown, the admission into evidence of these three inculpatory statements which are necessary for the conviction of the accused, cannot be reasonably assured.

It is fair to state that in this particular case there can be no real certainty as to the admission of the accused’s statement. It is equally fairly stated – but for the admission of the accused’s statement into evidence, that the Crown’s case would fail.

Given the lack of any other available evidence to the Crown, the significance of the potential exclusion of the accused’s statement from evidence takes on additional weight.

In fact, its potential for exclusion – in fact, likely exclusion – takes on critical significance in terms of management of the prosecution.

Justice Rick Saull: You said, ‘Likely exclusion?’

Leinburd: Yes. And I say reasonably, likely it would have been excluded. There was a real possibility to that.

Consequently, the evidentiary exigencies in this particular case are such that were the statements to be ruled inadmissible that there would have been little, if any likelihood of the prospect of holding Shawn Lamb responsible for the deaths of either Lorna Blacksmith or Carolyn Sinclair.

There would be no accountability on the part of the accused for those tragic events, nor would there be certainty for two affected families or the public at large.

In return for those exigencies in the evidence, the accused has given up his right to a trial. He has entered guilty pleas to two counts of manslaughter in exchange for consideration.

This consideration has taken the form of a reduction of the original charges from murder to manslaughter and the sexual assault allegations currently before the provincial court will not proceed.

These resolution discussions were the result of lengthy, methodical, comprehensive and scrupulous consideration by both the Crown and defence counsel.

Rather than expose both of these two tragically impacted families and the public at large to the risk that Shawn Lamb may walk free … it is the Crown and defence counsel’s considered opinion that this is in fact the quintessential instance of a true quid pro quo.”

[EDIT 23/11/2013 — CORRECTS TYPOS]

Shawn Lamb: the record, for the record

(Chris Procaylo/Winnipeg Sun/QMI)


In recent days, many have requested the publication of accused Winnipeg serial killer Shawn Lamb’s extensive record of criminal court convictions in full, given his case has raised so many questions about chronic offending.

I present it here, in full, for the public record.

Entries listed note the court centre where the convictions were entered, the charge and the resulting sentence imposed.

Background on what you’re about to read below can be found here, here, here, and here. And here.

  • 1976/08/18 Toronto

Attempt Fraud

Conditional Discharge, 1 yr probation

  • 1976/11/02 Barrie 

Theft over $200

Theft under $200

Breach probation

Break, enter and commit offence

6 months jail on the theft over, with lesser periods noted concurrent on other charges.

  • 1979/04/13 Barrie

Break, enter and theft

18 months jail, the sentence was appealed and reduced to 9 months

  • 1979/05/30 Barrie

Break, enter and theft

6 months jail consecutive to sentence already being served

  • 1979/09/25 Barrie

Possession of a narcotic

15 days jail

  • 1979/11/27 Guelph

Escape lawful custody

9 months consecutive to sentence already being served, later appealed down to time in custody.

  • 1979/12/14 Port Hope

Mischief

30 days concurrent with sentence already being served

  • 1980/07/07 Barrie

Drug possession

Possess for the purpose of trafficking x2

9 months and probation on possession, 2 years on the trafficking counts.

  • 1980/12/21 Winnipeg 

Armed robbery

Assault peace officer x2

2 years on the robbery, 6 months on each of the assault PO counts (consecutive)

  • 1984-04-18 Winnipeg

Assault causing bodily harm

5 months jail

  • 1984-11-29 Winnipeg

Theft under $200

1 month jail

  • 1985-02-28 Winnipeg

Assault cause bodily harm

Mischief

6 months on the assault, 1 month concurrent on mischief. Assault sentence was hiked on appeal to 12 months to be followed by 18 months of probation.

  • 1987-03-11 Barrie

Assault x2

Assault

Fail comply with bail conditions

6 months consecutive on the first two assaults, 3 months each on the other assault and bail breach, consecutive.

  • 1987-08-20 Guelph

Attempted obstruction of justice

Assault

Fail comply with bail conditions

Fail attend court (in Calgary, Alberta)

Theft over $1,000

Fail comply with probation order

5 months less a day on each charge, concurrent

  • 1988-06-06 Chilliwack, British Columbia

Assault

30 days and 2 years of probation

  • 1988-08-05 Vancouver

Care and control of a vehicle while over .08

$600 fine and 40 days time in custody noted

  • 1989-04-19 Edmonton

Mischief

$250 fine and 10 days time in custody noted

  • 1989-11-15 Edmonton

Utter threats

Possession of a weapon

1 day jail on each charge.

  • 1990-01-29 Edmonton

Uttering a forged document

30 days jail

  • 1990-07-12 Edmonton

Theft under $1,000

Obstruct peace officer

$200 and 15 days time served on the theft; $50 and three days time served on the obstruct

  • 1990-07-16 Edmonton

Theft over $1,000

3 months

  • 1991-02-21 Edmonton (RCMP High Prairie arrest)

Theft under $1,000 x2

Fail to appear

Fail to attend court

Fail bail condition

$200 fine on thefts plus 20 days jail, $100 fine on fail appear plus 10 days, $100 fine plus 10 days on attend court breach, $200 plus 20 days on bail breach

  • 1991-03-13 Slave Lake

Assault

5 months jail 

  • 1991-08-01 Edmonton

Theft under $1,000

$50 fine and 10 days TIC

  • 1992-02-06 Slave Lake (Slave Lake RCMP arrest)

Sexual assault

4 years prison plus a 5 year firearms prohibition

  • 1992-06-08 Innisfail 

Fail to comply with probation order

30 days concurrent with prison sentence

1993-06-17

PAROLED

1994-06-29

PAROLE VIOLATION, RECOMMITTED TO PRISON

1995-11-28

STATUTORY RELEASE

1995-11-28

STAT RELEASE VIOLATION, RECOMMITTED TO PRISON

  • 1996-07-05 Edmonton

Assault

9 months

  • 1997-07-09 Edmonton

Fail to appear

Theft under $5,000

1 day on fail to appear, $150 fine and three days TIC on theft

  • 1997-12-19 Edmonton

Break, enter and theft

4 month conditional sentence and 1 year probation

  • 1998-09-17 Winnipeg

Possession of property obtained by crime over $5,000

Public mischief

3 months on each charge consecutive plus two years of probation

  • 1999-06-23 Winnipeg

Utter forged document

Possession of property obtained by crime

30 days jail and a restitution order

  • 2000-01-14 Winnipeg

Utter forged document

Possess property obtained by crime over $5,000

Utter forged document

Possess property obtained by crime under $5,000

Fail to comply with bail condition

45-day intermittent sentence on first 2 charges, 30-days intermittent on next two, 1 day on the bail breach

  • 2000-04-06 Winnipeg

Unlawfully at large

30 days consecutive to sentence already being served

  • 2000-09-11 Winnipeg

Unlawfully in a dwelling house

Assault cause bodily harm

Fail to comply with probation order

2 years jail and two years of probation

  • 2001-09-11 Winnipeg

Possess property obtained by crime under $5,000

Fraud over $5,000

1 year jail on each charge concurrent

2001-09-22 Winnipeg

Possess property obtained by crime under $5,000

Fraud over $5,000

1 year concurrent with sentence already running

  • 2002-03-26 Winnipeg

Utter threats

Time served of 68 days

  • 2003-04-25 Winnipeg

Theft under $5,000

Utter threats

Assault peace officer

Time served of 6 months and 7 days

  • 2004-12-24 Winnipeg

Fail to comply with bail order x2

Fail to appear

Time served of 45 days on each charge concurrent

  • 2005-06-30 Winnipeg

Utter forged document

Break, enter and theft

Theft under $5,000

Theft over $5,000

Posess. property obtained by crime under $5,000

12 months jail with 11 months TIC noted and 3 years probation

  • 2006-08-31 Winnipeg

Assault peace officer

Possess property obtained by crime under $5,000

Time served of 115 days

  • 2007-09-07 Winnipeg

Possession of property obtained by crime under $5,000

Theft under $5,000

Posession of stolen credit card

6 months jail and 274 days of pre-sentence custody noted

  • 2008-11-07 Winnipeg

Carry concealed weapon

Possess property obtained by crime

Time served of 205 days

  • 2009-01-16 Winnipeg

Attempted Robbery

18 months conditional sentence, 3 years probation, supervised

  • 2010-05-26 Winnipeg

Possession of property obtained by crime — motor vehicle

Forgery x9

Theft under $5,000

Robbery with violence x2

13.5 months at double credit (27 months) noted, 19 months going forward AND the resumption of the 2009 conditional sentence order and the 3 years supervised probation.

-30-


SHAWN LAMB: Where does the buck stop in Manitoba Justice?

(Carolyn Sinclair, one of Lamb’s alleged victims)

After having a couple of days now to be immersed in the information on suspected city serial murderer Shawn Cameron Lamb, there’s still so many more questions than answers.

And it’s not the usual questions eating away at me.

For me, and I admit it’s really gotten under my skin, the number one thing that’s been eating away at my mind is:

Why was Lamb free prior to the full expiry of his 19-month jail sentence (from May 26, 2010).

He served only 13 of the months despite his horrendous record.

But more importantly:

Why was a provincial judge’s order regarding how Lamb’s sentence should be served either totally ignored or at least countermanded by Manitoba Corrections?

It’s a little convoluted, but please bear with me – the context is uber-important.

In January 2009, Lamb got a major break from Judge Wanda Garreck: an 18-month long conditional sentence and three years of probation (supervised) for an attempted robbery of a mom who simply happened to be in the area pushing her baby near where Lamb was smoking crack.

As it’s often touted, a CSO is “a jail sentence” where a criminal is allowed to serve it in the community, usually tied to several stringent conditions which are supposed to be supervised and enforced by a “sentence supervisor” and probation officers.

Breaching CSO conditions is supposed to lead to immediate rearrest and incarceration and the possibility of having the remainder of the CSO terminated and turned into real jail time in a real locked jail.

Some of Lamb’s CSO conditions included: mandatory counselling, mandatory residential rehab, Narcotics and Alcoholics anonymous provisions, 100 hours of community service, no drugs, no drinking, seeking and maintaining employment or schooling, medical or psychiatric treatment as directed.

Most importantly, it included a strict curfew, structured as follows:

First 6 months: Absolute. 24-7 curfew.

Second 6 months: 6 p.m. to 8 a.m.

Third 6 months: 9 p.m. to 7 a.m.

So. Lamb walks out of the Remand that day and roughly a week later is re-involved, or as the Crown put it: “He gets right back to work.”

Lamb swipes a Ford Taurus from a banquet hall and then forges signatures on 9 cheques stolen from inside the vehicle. He’s not arrested right away because police didn’t immediately recognize him on surveillance tapes.

He’s not arrested until April 2009, not until after he’s committed two “opportunistic” violent robberies and admits he’s been using crack while out on his conditional release.

Anyhow, he sits in jail for 13.5 months until that fateful day when Lamb appears before Judge Linda Giesbrecht on May 26, 2010.

She’s told of his horrendous record, the facts of his slew of crimes and given a complete breakdown of how many violent convictions he’s had.

Giesbrecht said Lamb’s rap sheet was “coming very close” to the worst she’d ever seen.

Lamb, when given the opportunity, goes on an extremely lengthy tirade about how he’s changed, the steps he’s taken to correct his life; that he was “doomed to fail” when he was granted the CSO in 2009 because things didn’t immediately fall in place for him as expected.

He’s taken responsibility and doesn’t want to hurt anyone any more, he says.

(Remember, Lamb’s been in front of 45 or more sentencing judges since 1976. He’s old hat at how things work by now.)

A joint recommendation for a sentence is proposed, and accepted for guilty pleas to 16 charges.

The sentence was: 13.5 months of time-served at double time credit (27 months), 19 months going forward, and an order that the remaining months of the previous conditional sentence (Y’know, the one he totally breached within a week or so of being out on it) would not start up again until he was released from jail on the new 19-month term. 

Importantly, the Crown stayed an allegation he breached the conditional sentence order. This is key. The CSO was not converted into jail time.

It was simply suspended — held “in abeyance” is how it was put in court. There was discussion between the lawyers as to whether this was the case, and it was agreed: The clock on the CSO stopped ticking when he was rearrested and was not completed.

In pronouncing Lamb’s sentence, Giesbrecht couldn’t have been more direct as to her wishes.

“It’s clear when you’re released the conditional sentence — whatever’s left of that — starts up, and that will be a considerable restriction on your liberty,” she said. “There’s going to be lots of help for you in the community when you’re released.”

She repeated same a few minutes later:

“That (CSO) will not run while you continue to serve your 19-month sentence … and whatever is remaining (13-14 months) will continue to run after you’re released for your 19-month sentence.”

But it didn’t. The province confirmed as much on Tuesday.

Seemingly adding insult to injury, Lamb — despite his extensive record of giving his middle finger to the law — still got automatic “earned remission,” and had six months lopped off his jail time.

So much for community supervision. So much for Giesbrecht’s ruling.

I asked the province the following prior to writing on this in Wednesday’s Winnipeg Sun.

“Just wondering about that request I asked for on Shawn Lamb’s release date last year?
Also, is there a chance I could please speak with someone in corrections about this case?
Upon his release last year, Lamb was supposed to have completed the remainder of an 18 month conditional sentence handed to him in January 2009 (he was rearrested a few months (after)  it started and held in abayance until his 2010 sentence was complete.
Wondering if that’s the case here.”

Here’s the two sentence response I got:

LAMB was released on June 24, 2011 (including 27 months of remand credit).
On the question of serving out the Conditional sentence order – for all intents and purposes the conditional sentence was satisfied, including the period of incarceration, so it had been served and all conditions and requirements had been met when he was released on June 24, 2011.

My request to speak with an official in corrections was not addressed.

(To be honest, I wasn’t expecting it to be. For the largest department in Manitoba Justice, you strangely seldom hear a scurrying word about their operations.)

Justice Minister Andrew Swan wouldn’t comment when asked about Lamb’s early release, citing the start of the criminal prosecution and ongoing police investigation.

I’d ask you to note how this issue really has nothing, except very tangentially, to do with the murder or sexual assault allegations Lamb now faces.

It does, however, have everything to do with where the buck stops in Manitoba’s justice system.

The only way I can see to put it is like this: A judge’s order regarding how best to sentence Lamb was either disobeyed, ignored or countermanded by corrections officials. 

I don’t know who allows the department to do this.

The public expects that a judge’s decision is final and should be obeyed.

If a Manitoba Justice department doesn’t seem to take judges’ rulings on sentences seriously, why should criminals? Why should you or I?

I expect that a judge’s decision be respected and followed as it was directed.

In this serious case, it wasn’t. We don’t know if Lamb took the mandatory rehab and psychological programming. Did he complete the 100 hours of community service? We don’t know.

We’re not really allowed to know and it’s ridiculous.

And I think we all deserve answers what happened here.

-30-

Accused serial killer Shawn Lamb and ‘the pain of being a rabbit’

(Shawn Lamb is arrested by Winnipeg police/Chris Procaylo/Winnipeg Sun/QMI)

Accused serial killer Shawn Lamb didn’t want to talk to me today, instead referring me to his lawyer, Evan Roitenberg through a very polite officer at the Winnipeg Remand Centre.

Roitenberg, always a gentleman, politely declined to discuss the triple second-degree murder case, in which Lamb is presumed innocent. He said he had little information and was awaiting disclosure from the Crown via police.

But that doesn’t mean Lamb, a career criminal with more than 100 convictions on his record, doesn’t have things to say.

Below, is a verbatim reprint of a handwritten piece of his original musings submitted to Judge Linda Giesbrecht on May 26, 2010 — the day where Giesbrecht sentenced him to serve 19 more months and Lamb ended up serving 13, despite his record.

“I’m just a coward pretending not to be afraid, sounding confident powerful, looking bold and fearsome as I could rip off the heads of my opponents.

But in my belly the wee bottom of my little belly is a boy still afraid, feeling alone, unknown if what he has will be enough to win to survive.

Hoping only hoping in its place I could feel the anger slowly filling up my empty belly and I loved the anger. It killed fear. It was easier to attack than to run.

It felt better to be lion not a rabbit. Oh, the pain of being a rabbit.

Once upon a time there was born a baby boy, a lovely indian boy as sweet and fat cheeked and gifted by the crater as any baby anywhere.

Except for the slightly darker hair and skin, he would have looked like your little boy and like your little boy he was born innocent, as innocent as a puppy.

Now take a puppy, when he comes up to you, tail wagging, you pick him up and love him, if you kick that innocent puppy instead “just kick him” and when he’s hungry you throw him out in the cold without food, and when he wants to be warm and safe you let the vicious neighbourhood dogs rip and tear at him, well, what about that, puppy?

How will that innocent puppy grow up?

A baby doesn’t choose where or to whom he is born, nor nationality, think, the nationality of an innocent baby is judged, treated.

An innocent baby deserves not to be torn apart from its mother, well the baby is the wrong nationality, expendable, send the child away, damn the damage this may cause.

The innocent child’s mind can not understand, “who are these strangers?” “WHY?” Why do they tease and torment and hurt this child body and soul?

The child’s psyche tortured, and with the innocent wonder of a child he can’t understand why the rights that even a puppy understands were taken from him, why as a member of this human species on the face of the earth he was do despised when he was so innocent.

He has only loved his mother, he had only done no wrong, but he was so despised and he felt the horrid heat of hate against him — why did they stomp out the last tiny vestiges of self-worth from this child? What wrong had he committed? Why was he kicked and beaten, raped and abused in both mind and body? Why?

The pain, the shame, the guilt, the confusion, this lost soul of a child (illegible word).

A path of anger, stealing, living on the streets, never enough drugs to escape the pain, dull the memories, the nightmares. A young boy in a man prison, a lost young man in prison, a middle-aged man in prison throughout all, a dim light, glimmer of hope a feeling of worth.

Ask for help unload the shame.

I’m wanting and worthy of a better life!”

-30-

Why was Shawn Lamb out of jail?

 

(Carolyn Sinclair)

Looking at the math, either I’m missing something about the recent release date of accused serial killer Shawn Lamb, or we need to seriously re-examine the early-release provisions regarding career criminals.

Today, Lamb is facing three second-degree murder charges in connection to the deaths of:

Tanya Nepinak (on Sept. 13, 2011)

Carolyn Sinclair (Dec. 18, 2011)

Lorna Blacksmith (Jan. 11, 2012)

On May 26, 2010, Lamb was sentenced by Judge Linda Giesbrecht (now retired) to the following after admitting guilt to 16 charges, including two violent robberies of innocent people.

27 months at double credit (his charges pre-dated the legislative amendment forbidding granting this to him) for time served on the robberies.

PLUS 19 months going forward of real jail for possession of property obtained by crime and forgery and theft, fraud and utter forged documents.

ONLY after this period of jail was served would the many months remaining on a Conditional Sentence he was given in Jan. 2009 for attempted robbery then begin to resume (to be followed by three years of supervised probation — court heard the sentence handed down in May 2010 would ultimately mean he’d be supervised in various forms for six years).

The Crown attorney was very specific in how she wanted the sentence structured.

If he was sentenced to 19 months real jail, that takes us to December 2011 before that in-custody period expired.

Looking at the offence dates police say the women were killed, that raises an issue. It would appear, on the surface, that Lamb was released many months prior to when he was supposed to be from a provincial jail.

I can accept in some cases early-release provisions apply for both federal and provincial inmates.

But in Lamb’s case, I can’t. This is an accused person with more than 100 prior convictions, many of them for violent acts and court order breaches — along with parole and statutory release violations.

How it was determined that he be granted early release — given his prior history — needs to be examined in detail.