Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Teens' defence says fatal beating may have been manslaughter but not murder

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A Winnipeg jury is expected to begin deliberating later today on the fates of two teens accused of killing an innocent father who died trying to protect his pregnant daughter.

They conceded Monday they are guilty of manslaughter in the August 2011 death of Joseph Lalonde, 48, inside his own yard on Dufferin Avenue.

Through their lawyers, however, the teens claim they'd been drinking heavily in the hours before they beat Lalonde to death, meaning they didn't have the necessary intent to commit second-degree murder, the charge they're suspected of.

Minutes before riding their bikes to Lalonde's home armed with a baseball bat and an air rifle, one of the teens had ridden by there and encountered a gang rival.

Upon his return with the co-accused, however, that person was gone. Instead, they saw Lalonde's 21-week pregnant daughter and quickly accosted her despite the fact she wasn't even aware of the prior incident or connected in any way to gangs.

Lalonde stepped in to stop the attack and was set upon, court heard Monday. Every bone in his face was broken and he quickly lost consciousness, never to regain it. He died days later in hospital from the blunt-force trauma he suffered.

The teens also contend there's conflicting evidence about who wielded the bat.

It's a crucial issue, lawyer Scott Newman suggested.

"If he never had the bat, it's going to be more difficult for you to infer he intended to cause the injuries that were done by the bat," Newman told the jury on behalf of his client. "You have to deal with these individuals separately," Newman said.

Prosecutors see the case very differently, describing Lalonde's death as a clear-cut case of murder committed by armed, angry teens who acted together.

Their claims of intoxication are a mirage, Crown attorney Susan Baragar suggested.

And whether the bat or feet were used, she said, the teens were "intent on inflicting as much damage as they possibly could."

"If you were so intoxicated that you did not foresee that continuously beating someone in the head would kill them, then would you expect that they would be able to ride a bicycle without difficulty?" she asked jurors.
"Would you be able to overpower a grown, sober man and beat them to death? Would you be able to be so co-ordinated that you would somehow manage to make sure that the majority of your blows landed on the person's head?

"… These are all the marks of someone that is intent on inflicting maximum damage, not the actions of a highly-intoxicated person," said Baragar.

Regardless of what the jury decides, the Crown is expected to seek adult sentences in the case.

It's at that stage that the jury's verdict could have an impact on any punishment they receive. If sentenced as an adult for second-degree murder, a teen receives a mandatory life sentence without a chance at parole for between five and seven years.

There is no mandatory sentence for manslaughter.


Updated on Monday, June 23, 2014 at 7:14 PM CDT: updated version

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