A Manitoba motorist who struck and killed a young mother of two as he drove home from a party — then thwarted police efforts to determine if he was drunk — has been given a four-month jail sentence.
The Crown was seeking up to two years in custody for Donnie Smith, who pleaded guilty to refusing a breathalyzer in connection with the February 2015 incident near Long Plain First Nation. Provincial court Judge Don Slough opted for a more lenient penalty, mainly on the grounds he found Smith's state of sobriety likely played a lesser role in the tragedy.
The 23-year-old victim, Kaitlyn Myran, was walking drunk in the middle of a dark highway at night while wearing dark clothing and would have been extremely difficult to see, an RCMP traffic collision expert testified during a preliminary hearing. She was rushed to hospital and was pronounced dead.
"He told the police that he had no time to react and his car struck Ms. Myran," Slough wrote in his recent sentencing decision. "The accused’s conduct, while a factor in Ms. Myran’s death, was not the primary cause. In my opinion, this gives rise to a lower degree of moral blameworthiness with respect to the causation of the accident."
The officers on scene detected a "strong smell of stale alcohol" coming from Smith, who admitted to consuming marijuana, at least seven beer and a rye and Coke earlier that night. When asked to give a breath sample, Smith consulted a lawyer and refused. As a result, it proved impossible to determine if he was over the legal driving limit of .08.
Smith told police he felt he was fine to drive that night, and others at the party claimed he wasn't intoxicated and was actually the designated driver.
"I am of the view that Mr. Smith’s refusal to provide a breath sample, knowing he had been the driver in an accident resulting in death, is a significant aggravating factor in determining sentence. Simply stated, Mr. Smith chose to obstruct the investigation of the death of Kaitlyn Myran by withholding crucial evidence," Slough wrote. "No person who finds himself in circumstances similar to those confronting the accused on Feb. 21, 2015 should feel that they can avoid the appropriate consequences for their behaviour, by refusing to provide a breath sample."
Smith has no prior criminal record and has been deemed a low-risk to re-offend, court was told. He expressed remorse for killing Myran, a woman he knew well and considered a friend. He's also been attending programming to deal with drug and alcohol issues and had been free on bail without incident since shortly after his arrest.
"The failure to provide a breath sample, objective and crucial evidence of his condition at the time of a fatal accident is a serious matter and requires a sentence that denounces his conduct and will deter others. Nevertheless, the evidence establishes that the accused is a valued member of his First Nations community and a good father and husband. Therefore, in sentencing Mr. Smith, I must strike a balance between the serious nature of the accused’s conduct and the many positive aspects of his character," Slough wrote.
Court was told the victim's family "does not hold any hard feelings or anger about what occurred" and were satisfied with whatever the court decided, according to several social workers who testified.
"The accused is held in high regard by the Long Plains community. Further, (social workers) advised that the accused’s parents depend on him for support as his mother is very ill and his father is on dialysis. They describe the accused as being filled with remorse: 'living in his own little prison,'" Slough wrote.
Smith was given credit for one month of pre-trial custody. Slough has ruled the remaining three months can be served intermittently on weekends to allow Smith to be able to attend to the various needs of his family.