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ANATOMY OF A PLEA BARGAIN – Judgement Day Comes for Alleged Serial Killer Shawn Lamb

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MARTIN GLAZER (GLAZER LAW OFFICE)

“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.

2 Comments

  1. A couple of points.

    Firstly, I reject the notion the Police paid Lamb for his confession.

    I provide analysis of the confession in my article, “A Deal With the Devil – The Shawn Lamb Confession.”

    The Police held a news conference today during which time they provided a detailed explanation regarding the monies paid to Lamb.

    (See video on sidebar)

    I admit I don’t have a law degree but with twenty-six years of experience in Law Enforcement, experience working on over 200 Homicide cases and providing testimony in literally hundreds of criminal cases, I have developed extensive knowledge in the area of the admissibility of evidence, particularly suspect confessions, one of my primary areas of expertise.

    When it comes to evaluating the reliability of a statement I would review the content of the confession rather than the circumstances surrounding the taking of it.

    Does the statement contain content that only someone involved in the killing would know.

    Apparently Lamb was able to provide this kind of highly detailed information in his confession.

    Ultimately, these points are moot.

    The plea bargain, controversial as it is, does ensure that Lamb will be 72 years old when his sentence expires.

    Lets hope he’s a harmless old man by then.

    Thanks for commenting.

  2. Interesting take, James. I can’t help but notice one thing you’ve glossed right over in your “hesitation” to sit in judgment of the Crown decision in this case.

    You seem to have been understandably shocked at Glazer’s assertion that the police paid Lamb for his confession. Yet you seem unwilling to explore that possibility, or speculate on what effect, if true, that factor would have on the ultimate reliability of his confession.

    Allow me to postulate my theory as to why that might be.

    Could it be, much as in the case you cite involving as-he-then-was Crown Rick Saull, that your particular area of expertise is police procedure, and not what may ultimately be reliable as evidence at trial in a criminal prosecution?

    I have nothing but respect for police and police work. It is difficult and often thankless work. In much the same vein, so is defending, as well as prosecuting, alleged criminals. But the reality is everyone has their area of expertise. And as you should be very much aware, not everyone in the same field has the same opinion on every matter. Some will choose to secure a conviction and achieve some small measure of justice rather than take the risk that an obvious killer walks free. Others will pursue a point, convinced they are right, lose the battle and in some cases their career, over a dogged determination to be vindicated.

    But if we look at what we know, we know that absent his confession there was no other evidence that would come close to implicating Lamb. And if, as is claimed, Lamb was paid for that confession, what comfort can a court – which must be sure beyond a reasonable doubt – have that a confessed crack addict and admittedly career criminal wasn’t just further looking out for his own interests or deliberately misleading police for whatever reasons a sociopath might choose?

    I for one am quite pleased that Lamb will realistically be behind bars for the rest of his life, rather than the alternative of having him walk on the basis of a dodgy confession.

    If that had happened, I would hazard a guess that your opinion of Justice Saull would have soured compared to those previous dealings with him to which you have alluded.

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