Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Men lose bid to reduce first-degree murder charges

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Two Winnipeg men accused of a double killing have lost their bid to have first-degree murder charges tossed out in the middle of their trial.

Lawyers for the pair, who were 16 and 17 at the time of the December 2009 ambush in Elmwood, filed a rare "directed verdict" motion on Monday, seeking to have the most serious charge in the Criminal Code dismissed.

They argued the Crown had failed to present any evidence during the first three weeks of the trial that supported the first-degree allegations. In exchange, they wanted only lesser charges of second-degree murder or manslaughter to be considered.

Queen's Bench Justice Perry Schulman returned to court Tuesday and dismissed their bid, saying the trial will proceed as scheduled and the original charges would remain on the table. If proven, first-degree murder carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole for at least 25 years. Parole eligibility is as low as 10 years on a second-degree murder conviction, while there is no mandatory minimum sentence for manslaughter.

Tyler Hawula and Matthew Reynolds, both 18, were fatally injured in the attack. A third victim, Kyle St. Germaine, suffered serious injuries.

In fighting to keep the first-degree murder accusation alive, Crown attorney Lisa Carson argued Monday there is plenty of evidence to suggest there was the type of planning or pre-meditation needed to prove the charge.

"There was no hesitation, no confrontation, no pausing. (One of the accused) runs into the house as fast as he can, executes the plan and runs out of the house," Carson argued.

"There was ample opportunity in terms of discussion of a plan. We know what was in mind was retaliation. We know they were going back to get even. They were going back to exact revenge, taking a loaded shotgun into a home filled with unarmed people."

A key Crown witness told court last week the shootings were "spontaneous." Cody Delorme admits being with the two accused at the time of the deadly attacks. He pleaded guilty previously to reduced charges of manslaughter and was sentenced to 11 years in prison.

"It went to hell in a second," Delorme told court. He went with the two accused and another teen to the home, believing they were going to possibly beat up someone, or maybe steal their alcohol and drugs, to "get even" for an earlier slight. He claims there was never a discussion about shooting the place up, even though one of the accused had grabbed a firearm before they got into a cab to go to the Martin Avenue residence.

"It was like, OK, we're going to go there. But what are we going to do when we get there?" Delorme testified. "(The two accused) felt they'd been wronged. But it wasn't really much of any plan or thought process."

The incident began after Hawula and a small group of friends planned to host a party at his home on Martin Avenue West and advertised the event using Facebook. But the invitation spread through the social-networking website, resulting in several unknown people showing up.

That included the two accused and several of their gang-connected friends. Later, Hawula, Reynolds and another man kicked the 17-year-old out because he was getting into arguments with other guests and frightening people by flashing weapons, court was told.

The youth left -- his friends, including the 16-year-old, had previously departed -- and that's when, the Crown alleged, a plot was hatched to return to the home and seek revenge.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 3, 2012 A8

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