THE PROVINCE |
Sunday, December 22, 1996
Justice slaughtered: IndiansFirst-degree murder charges don't stick
Two men who beat the prostitute to death were found guilty of manslaughter, setting off more criticism of the justice system.
Lindsay Kaye, chief of the Sakimay Indian band, called for a public inquiry into the verdict.
"All it goes to prove is that there's two justice systems in Saskatchewan -- one for the Indian people and one for the white people," said Kaye.
It's all right for a white person to kill an Indian person. Nobody cares if an Indian person dies."
A jury found Steven Kummerfield and Alexander Ternowetsky, both 20, guilty of manslaughter. They will be sentenced Jan.3.
They had been charged with first-degree murder.
The battered body of George, 28, was found in a ditch.
Kummerfield and Ternowetsky admitted beating her but maintained she was alive and yelling when they left her.
Friends quoted them as saying: :We drove around, got drunk and killed this chick" and "she deserved it. She was an Indian."
Justice Ted Malone made it clear to the jury he didn't think they should be convicted of first-degree murder.
To convict of murder the jurors had to be sure the men caused bodily harm, knew their actions would likely cause her death and were reckless whether death ensued, the judge said.
Testimony indicated they were at the scene for 45 minutes to an hour but there's no evidence to show what occurred. That made a first-degree conviction "very dangerous," Malone said.
If the jury found the accused were so intoxicated they didn't understand the beating would kill George, the verdict should be manslaughter, the judge said.
The Crown argued that the crime was first-degree murder, not because of planning and deliberation, but because it happened while the woman was being sexually assaulted and forcibly confined. But the judge said: "If you should find that Pamela George consented to the sexual activity of the accused...bearing in mind the evidence indicates she was a prostitute, then the Crown has not made out its case."
The manslaughter conviction means Ternowetsky and Kummerfield will face much less time than if guilty of murder.
A murder conviction carries an automatic life sentence, with no possibility of parole for 10 years if second-degree and 25 years for first-degree.
George's boyfriend testified he may have seen her get into a car with Edwin Lloyd Isaac, a suspect who died in March.
The trial sparked rallies of support for the George family outside the courthouse.
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