Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Gang associates convicted of murder

Lawyer seeks efforts to make streets safer

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More must be done to combat Winnipeg street gangs to avoid a repeat of situations such as one that saw an innocent North End father beaten to death in his yard, says a veteran defence lawyer.

Bill Armstrong watched a jury convict his teenage client and another young suspect of second-degree murder for killing Joseph Lalonde, 48.

"We have a social problem here that no governments want to, but they've got to, try and deal with," Armstrong said.

"It makes the streets safer and also keeps kids like this out of these jackpots," he added.

Lalonde, 48, was brutally assaulted outside his Dufferin Avenue home on Aug. 24, 2011.

He'd stepped in to protect his pregnant daughter from an attack by two 15-year-old Manitoba Warriors associates who mistook her for an Indian Posse gang rival.

One of them had ridden his bike by Lalonde's home just minutes before and saw another youth flash an IP gang sign.

'We have a social problem here that no governments want to, but they've got to, try and deal with' -- Lawyer Bill Armstrong

He rode up the street to a nearby home and met up with his co-accused. They armed themselves with a bat and air rifle to return and settle the score.

"If there hadn't been a gang sign flashed... none of this would have happened," Armstrong said. "Gangs were the trigger."

A development giving weight to Armstrong's position on the need to combat gangs is the fact the boy Lalonde's killers came to confront was shot in a gang-related incident in 2012.

He was left permanently disabled by the Salter Street shooting and was unable to testify in court at the murder trial due to his compromised state.

Every bone in Lalonde's face was shattered in the minute-long attack he endured.

The attack was witnessed by his daughter, who was bashed with the bat after she tried to pull one of the killers off him.

Lalonde lost consciousness in the yard and never regained it. He died in hospital a few days later.

The teen killers conceded they were guilty of manslaughter but argued to jurors they'd been drinking heavily and couldn't form the necessary intent to commit murder.

Jurors found otherwise.

Crown prosecutors Susan Baragar and Jodi Koffman confirmed in court they will seek adult sentences for the convicted teens.

If the Crown is successful, the offenders will receive life prison sentences without a chance of parole for between five and seven years.

They will also lose the legal protection prohibiting the publication of their names in the media.

If the adult-sentence application is lost, the maximum amount of time they can serve under the Youth Criminal Justice Act for Lalonde's murder is seven years, split as four years of prison and three years of conditional supervision in the community.

Psychiatric and pre-sentencing reports examining the killers' backgrounds and personal circumstances were ordered and will be tabled in court later this year.

The documents are key to what the future will hold for them, defence lawyer Scott Newman said.

"A lot will turn on the reports," Newman said.

Prior to trial, the defence won a rarely seen legal ruling allowing them to challenge prospective jurors about bias they may have because of the gang overtones of the case.

"Gang-related interaction appears to be at the heart of this case," Justice Perry Schulman wrote. "I find that there is a reasonable risk of bias on the part of prospective jurors."

Schulman also noted the province has taken some steps to educate people about the perils of gangs.

"The Manitoba government has created programs to educate members of the public about the dangers of gangs and how to address related problems in educating children," said Schulman.

james.turner@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 26, 2014 A11

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