Manitoba’s highest court has reduced the prison sentence for a Winnipeg woman who stabbed a man to death after mistakenly believing he had molested her son.
The 42-year-old woman — who the Free Press is not naming to protect the identity of her son — was found guilty of manslaughter following a jury trial in 2018. She was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
In a written decision released Thursday, the Manitoba Court of Appeal reduced the sentence to seven years, ruling the sentencing judge erred in assessing her moral culpability as high, while not properly considering her personal background, intoxication, and elements of provocation.
Gladue principles require Canadian courts to take into consideration the circumstances and background of Indigenous offenders at the time of sentencing.
While the sentencing judge "correctly stated that the Gladue factors were mitigating, I see no evidence in his reasoning that he addressed these factors in the context of their impact on the accused’s moral culpability," Justice Barbara Hamilton wrote on behalf of the appeal court.
"The Gladue factors here called for such an assessment," Hamilton said. "The accused’s dysfunctional upbringing of alcohol abuse, sexual abuse and domestic violence provided important context to understand her actions when assessing her moral blameworthiness."
Frederick Bird died March 8, 2016, after he was stabbed four times in the chest with a kitchen knife.
Jurors heard testimony at trial a male friend brought Bird to the woman’s home that afternoon, and the three socialized and drank whisky.
The male friend testified he was on his way upstairs to use the washroom when he heard the woman say to her son: "Did he touch you?" to which the boy replied, "Yeah."
When the man returned to the living room he saw the woman stabbing Bird, as he denied touching the boy.
The man said when the violence was over, the boy told his mother: "I was just kidding." The woman replied: "Oh, mommy’s going to be gone for a while."
In her own testimony, the woman claimed she saw Bird’s hand under a blanket, moving up and down near the boy’s genital area. She said she went to the kitchen for a knife, returned and asked the boy if Bird had touched him.
When he replied yes, "I remember my arm going up and then I blacked out."
The woman denied hearing her son say he was "just kidding."
The sentencing judge did not accept the woman’s version of events, ruling if she had seen what she said she did, she would have immediately confronted Bird.
"I find that due to her intoxication, (the accused) erroneously thought that Mr. Bird was assaulting her child," the judge said at sentencing. "I want the record to be clear, as far as this court is concerned, (the accused) killed an innocent man."
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.