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Life sentence for ‘morally reprehensible’ killing

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Calling the unprovoked slaying of Winnipeg lawyer Justin Silicz “morally reprehensible,” a judge sentenced his killer Thursday to life in prison with no chance of parole for 14 years.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/02/2022 (342 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Calling the unprovoked slaying of Winnipeg lawyer Justin Silicz “morally reprehensible,” a judge sentenced his killer Thursday to life in prison with no chance of parole for 14 years.

A jury convicted 22-year-old Keishawn Mitchell of second-degree murder following a trial last November.

Silicz, 32, died on June 2, 2019, after he was stabbed during an encounter with three strangers while walking to his car with his friends after they’d been an after-hours club.

FACEBOOK Justin Silicz, 32, died on June 2, 2019, after he was stabbed during an encounter with three strangers while walking to his car with his friends after they’d been an after-hours club.

Jurors rejected Mitchell’s claim he acted in self-defence when he stabbed Silicz two times in his midsection and was too intoxicated to form the intent to kill.

Neither Silicz nor his friend Tony Hajzler, who was also assaulted, made any “aggressive moves” when they crossed paths with Mitchell and his friends early that morning on Winnipeg Avenue, Justice Gerald Chartier said.

“In fact, it was quite the opposite, Chartier said. “Mr. Silicz was trying to de-escalate matters and Mr. Hajzler was silent in the face of taunts from Mr. Mitchell,” Chartier said.

Jurors heard testimony Silicz, Hajzler and their friend Andrea Bosnjak were walking back to their car around 4 a.m., when they saw three men walking in the same direction a short distance ahead of them.

After one of the males shouted to ask Bosnjak for a cigarette, what started as casual banter escalated into an exchange of insults and threats, Hajzler testified. Mitchell, Hajzler said, walked up to him and as Silicz tried to de-escalate the situation, punched Hajzler in the face.

Hajzler, who testified he had a leg injury that left him unable to defend himself, told court Silicz charged at Mitchell and the two men exchanged several punches before Silicz was stabbed and fell to the ground.

Chartier rejected Mitchell’s claim he felt threatened by Siicz and Hajzler, noting he was not injured.

“Mr. Mitchell was the initial and ongoing aggressor throughout the incident,” Chartier said. “He initiated the violence by throwing the first punch” and “was never at any disadvantage,” he said.

“That the two groups were complete strangers mere minutes prior to the murder adds to the senselessness of the killing,” Chartier said.

Eight months before the killing, Mitchell pleaded guilty to two counts of theft, assault, and other offences and was sentenced to 12 months of probation, which included an order he not carry a weapon.

“I hope you appreciate the fact that you are getting a break today and, hopefully, your behaviour in the community will reflect the break you received here,” provincial court Judge Dale Schille told Mitchell at the time.

Silicz’s parents, brother, and several other family members and friends were in court for Mitchell’s sentencing Thursday.

“We are grateful that justice has been delivered,” family members said in an email statement Thursday afternoon.

“Justin Silicz was a peacemaker who tried to de-escalate a confrontation, ultimately laying down his life for his friends. Our family is healing from this senseless loss. The depth of our love makes the grief longer.”

Defence lawyer Mike Cook said Mitchell will appeal his conviction and sentence.

dean.pritchard@freepress.mb.ca

Dean Pritchard

Dean Pritchard
Courts reporter

Someone once said a journalist is just a reporter in a good suit. Dean Pritchard doesn’t own a good suit. But he knows a good lawsuit.

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