“Justice” is a dish often served cold.
In my experience, “Justice” is an abstract concept when it comes to the outcome of a murder case.
That reality became apparent to several surviving family members today in the case of alleged serial killer Shawn Lamb.
Rumours of the controversial plea bargain had long escaped the confines of the Justice world and leached out to a number of carnivorous crime reporters. Lamb was to plead guilty to two (2) counts of Manslaughter in connection with the killings of Lorna Blacksmith and Carolyn Sinclair and was to receive ten (10) year sentences to be served consecutively. His “paper” sentence translates to twenty (20) years incarceration with a stipulation he must serve half the sentence before he is eligible for Parole.
After applying credit for two (2) years of pre-trial custody, Lamb will be left with a total sentence of eighteen (18) years of which he must serve a minimum of nine (9) years before he is eligible for Parole.
When you do the math, Lamb will serve exactly five (5) years for each victim he brutally murdered. A result that clearly disheartened family members who still struggle with the loss of their loved ones.
The only questioned that remained was, “Would Court of Queens Bench Justice Rick Saull give his blessing to the plea bargain deal.”
The prosecutor, Senior Crown Attorney Sheila Leinburd, opened the proceedings by reviewing the case and providing the Court with a dissertation of agreed facts. Facts that detailed the brutal killings of two (2) innocent, vulnerable women whose addiction to crack cocaine set them on a deadly course to cross paths with a dangerous sociopath.
After outlining the case, the Crown proceeded to provide the Court with her justification for entering into the controversial plea bargain. It was during this time Justice Saull was alerted to the frailties of the Crowns case, a case that rose or fell on a suspected serial killers confession.
It was Lambs confession that apparently drove the Crown to resolve the case. A confession the Crown conceded would likely be excluded as evidence if the proceedings went to trial. If the confession was excluded, the Crown simply had no case. There were no eye witnesses to either killing, no smoking gun and the only DNA evidence secured during the investigation would be rendered meaningless with the exclusion of the confession.
To complicate things, the body of Lorna Blacksmith was so badly decomposed the Pathologist was unable to determine a cause of death. With an undetermined cause of death the Crown would never be able to prove murder.
In a game of high stakes serial killer poker, the Crown assured the Court they had little choice but to fold their hand. “If the statements are ruled inadmissible there would be no accountability for Sean Lamb,” Leinburd said.
The Crown declined to articulate the problem with Lambs confession but that didn’t stop Lambs lawyer Martin Glazer from spelling it out.
“The Police paid Mr Lamb to confess,” Glazer informed the Court. “It was obvious the confession would have been ruled inadmissible.”
When I heard Glazers assertion I immediately looked in the direction of the Crown and noted she was sitting stoically at the prosecutors bench. Surely the Crown would rise in objection if Glazer was playing hard and loose with the facts. There would be no objection. The Crowns silence was deafening.
Like a pit bull on a fresh-cut steak, Glazer did his best to shred the Crowns case spending what seemed like an eternity trying to underpin the foundation for the jointly recommended sentence. “This is a true “quid pro quo” to obtain justice where justice would have been defeated,” he said.
At times, Glazer tested the Courts patience with his frequent departures from reality during his never-ending diatribe. “I have your point Mr Glazer, he’s not a psychopath, he’s not a church goer, he’s not a lot of things. I’m more concerned about what he is,” Justice Saull retorted.
That concern multiplied when Lamb exercised his option to address the Court and promptly tried to withdraw his guilty pleas. The bizarre move only proved to exacerbate the pain and anxiety being felt by several family members and friends who were present in the Court room. “You’re a fucking monster, take responsibility,” a man associated to the victims yelled.
This was text-book Shawn Lamb, the manipulative, egocentric killer revelling in his opportunity to re-victimize people he’s already caused such extraordinary pain.
To his credit, Glazer managed to get Lamb “back in the program” and the sentencing continued.
Ultimately, Justice Saull endorsed the deal indicating it was not “contrary to the public interest” and was a “reasonable joint recommendation.”
Crown Prosecutors are faced with plea bargain dilemmas almost every day. Do you prosecute a case and try for a conviction or do you hedge your bets and plea bargain to ensure the offender is held to account for the crime?
When it comes to the ultimate crime, the possibility that a killer might walk free is incentive enough for most Prosecutors to reduce murder charges to ensure some form of offender accountability. This is the dilemma that faced Senior Crown Sheila Leinburd during her deliberations on the Lamb case.
In some cases, the Police vehemently oppose the Crowns decision to plea down a case. When these two entities are diametrically opposed the Police have little recourse but to begrudgingly accept the Crowns decision as the Crown has the ultimate authority over the prosecution of the case.
In 2001, I formally challenged a Crowns decision to plea down murder charges laid in connection with the death of a man who was killed by his common law wife. Similarly, this was a statement case built on a confession made by the accused during a Police interrogation.
Ironically, Justice Rick Saull was the Senior Crown Attorney tasked by Justice Officials to review the file and render an opinion regarding the proposed plea bargain. Ultimately, Saull supported the Police position regarding the prosecution. Homicide Unit investigators were subsequently shocked when the Prosecutions Branch chose to ignore Saull’s recommendations and dropped the murder charges.
Coincidentally, Martin Glazer represented the accused in that case.
Although I hesitate to sit in judgment of the Crowns decision Lambs case, I do question the suggestion that Lambs confession was indefensible.
The circumstances surrounding the confession merits further analysis and will be explored in a follow-up report.
Shawn Lamb will be sixty-three (63) years old when he’s eligible to be released from prison.
He’ll be seventy-two (72) years old when his sentence expires.
With over one hundred (100) criminal convictions on his record, smart money suggests we haven’t heard the last of this guy.