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Convicted killer asks Winnipeg jury for a chance at early parole

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A convicted killer wants to work with troubled youth and share his life story once he's paroled from prison and deported from Canada.

Family members of Edmund Roopnarine-Singh took the witness stand Thursday to tell Winnipeg jurors about the man they know and love. 

"The old Edmund is back. When I see him now, I see the person I used to know," his aunt, Hyacinth Singh, testified via video link from Toronto.

She immigrated to Canada with her nephew and several other family members in 1989 from Trinidad. And that's where Roopnarine-Singh will be deported to if he's ever released from prison.

"He wants to work with young men. He's walked a road he knows was not the best one. He wants to help them avoid going down that road," said his aunt, who visits him regularly behind bars.

Roopnarine-Singh, 40, was convicted of first-degree murder for the 1995 killing of fellow inmate Bertrand Myran inside Stony Mountain Institution, where he was serving an aggravated-assault sentence at the time. He was given an automatic term of life in prison with no chance of parole for at least 25 years.

He never denied the fatal stabbing, but claimed it was done in self-defence. Myran was an aboriginal gang leader who had been involved in putting a "hit list" out on black inmates such as Roopnarine-Singh.

Jurors rejected his defence at trial, finding him guilty of the planned, pre-meditated slaying.

Now Roopnarine-Singh is asking another jury to consider his faint-hope bid under section 745 of the Criminal Code. The onus is now on him to convince jurors he deserves a chance to ask the National Parole Board to release him prior to hitting his parole eligibility date in 2020.

If the jury rejects his bid, he can't apply. But if jurors give him the green light, the parole board has the final say. 

Jurors heard earlier this week from several correctional officials who've worked closely with Roopnarine-Singh and support his bid for early release.

On Thursday, things got more personal as his loved ones took the stand. Besides his aunt, Roopnarine-Singh's wife also testified.

"He's a kind, gentle, caring, selfless individual.‎ He is very spiritual, very strong," said the woman, who currently lives in Toronto.

The Winnipeg Free Press is not publishing her name at the request of lawyers, who cite ongoing safety concerns given the details of Roopnarine-Singh's crime.

The 39-year-old woman has known Roopnarine-Singh since meeting him at a party in 1990. But they only became romantically involved in about 2005, when he was serving his life sentence in Ontario.

They were married in a 2006 prison ceremony and now are planning a future together in Trinidad, provided Roopnarine-Singh can be released.

"He knows he's made bad choices. Choices he regrets," she said. "He lives with that every day. He carries that with him."

The faint-hope hearing is set to last two weeks.

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