It is a good thing that the Crown is attempting to place restrictive conditions on Eric Mearow, one of three men who in July of last year got to plead guilty to manslaughter in the 2011 slaying of Wesley Hallam, as Mearow is about to be released from prison full-time.
But it would have been even better if it had done a better job in the first place, such as not agreeing to a plea bargain that saw the charges against Mearow, Ron Mitchell and Dylan Jocko, dropped all the way from first-degree murder to manslaughter.
The charges should never have gone below second-degree murder and a decision as to guilty or not guilty should have been left to a jury, not through some backroom dealings between the Crown and the defence.
The Crown apparently thought there were some frailties in its case because the three involved in the slaying were drunk at the time.
But how could it really be known if they were drunk or not since no breathalyser samples were taken because the three were not arrested for days after the slaying. We are left to conclude that the Crown simply took the word of the accused that they were too drunk to form the intent to kill.
That, of course, is hard for some of us to buy since Hallam’s head and other parts of his body were cut off. They weren’t too drunk to manage that.
Although Mearow, according to a post on the Facebook page of Hallam’s mother, Sandra, was released into the community on Friday, he is scheduled to appear before Justice of the Peace Philip Stanghetta on Dec. 5, at which time he will either agree to enter into a recognizance or be returned to jail for a further 12 months.
However, indications are that he is prepared to accept the conditions of Sec. 810 of the Criminal Code of Canada. It says:
“810.(1) An information may be laid before a justice by or on behalf of any person who fears on reasonable grounds that another person will cause personal injury to him or her or to his or her spouse or common-law partner or child or will damage his or her property.
“(2) A justice who receives an information under subsection (1) shall cause the parties to appear before him or before a summary conviction court having jurisdiction in the same territorial division.
“(3) The justice or the summary conviction court before which the parties appear may, if satisfied by the evidence adduced that the person on whose behalf the information was laid has reasonable grounds for his or her fears,
“(a) order that the defendant enter into a recognizance, with or without sureties, to keep the peace and be of good behaviour for any period that does not exceed 12 months, and comply with such other reasonable conditions prescribed in the recognizance, including the conditions set out in subsection (3.1) and (3.2), as the court considers desirable for securing the good conduct of the defendant; or
“(b) commit the defendant to prison for a term not exceeding 12 months if he or she fails or refuses to enter into the recognizance.”
Subsection (3.1) concerns the prohibition of possessing weapons and (3.2) concerns not being near or communicating with the person on whose behalf the information has been laid.
When I first read this section I had some concern with the 12-month limit on the recognizance, but I took heart in noting that this limit somehow was bumped up to 24 months for Mitchell, the first of the three to be released.
He recently headed for Alberta after signing the recognizance document before Ontario Court of Justice Judge Paul Condon.
Mitchell was the only one of the three to apologize for his actions when the trio was sentenced and he apologized again before Condon.
“I’m deeply sorry,” Mitchell told court. “I hope one day I’ll be forgiven.”
As detailed above, a Section 810 comes into play when there are fears that a person due to be released could cause injury to someone or damage to property.
Assistant Crown Attorney David Kirk told the court that witnesses are “very fearful” of Mearow.
This fear actually extends to his own family, one family member last year writing on NorthernHoot, an online news site, that the family wanted him kept in jail.
Mearow questioned why conditions were being proposed now and was told the process had commenced weeks ago.
Actually, I had the same question.
But then it quickly came to me; it was just that the Crown hadn’t done its job in the first place.
The plea bargain cutting the charges of first-degree murder all the way down to manslaughter was a slap in the face to the Hallam family, the community at large and the Sault Ste. Marie Police Service.
City police chief Bob Keetch told me for a column I wrote last year about the plea bargain that in excess of 200 officers from the city force and OPP had been committed to the investigation over time.
“We interviewed in excess of 200 witnesses and the Crown brief exceeds 90,000 pages,” he said. “There was a thorough, competent and expensive investigation conducted which ultimately resulted in the three individuals being identified and charged with first-degree murder.”
I said at the time it was obvious the police did their jobs. I found it disheartening that those in the Crown attorney’s office didn’t seem prepared to do theirs.
Wesley Hallam died from a three-centimetre wide, six-centimetre-deep stab wound to the left side of his neck, according to a joint statement of facts presented by the Crown and defence lawyers.
Hallam’s carotid artery and jugular vein were both severed when Mitchell plunged his four-inch folding knife into Hallam, but there was little initial bleeding.
The joint statement of agreed facts revealed that Hallam was the first to pull a knife at the party, but he had been disarmed by a blow to the arm from Jocko before he was attacked by Mitchell.
Mitchell received a sentence of 22 months on top of time already spent in custody. Mearow and Jocko both received two years less a day, after time already spent in custody and their aboriginal backgrounds were taken into consideration.
It wasn’t enough, not even close to being enough.