LOCAL NEWS

Just Another Day in the Meat Grinder – Domestic Violence Case Fails to Inspire

John David Goundry (WPS Handout)
John David Goundry – Homicide Victim (WPS Handout)

It was a tragic case of domestic violence.

A total of fifteen stab wounds, seven to the abdomen and eight to the arms.

The victim left to die on a cold bedroom floor, abandoned and alone.

In homicide circles the eight injuries to the arms are known as “defensive wounds.”

A defensive wound is an injury a victim of an attack suffers while trying to defend themselves against an assailant.

Those defensive wounds tell you much about the nature of the crime.

The rage, the anger, the unrelenting murderous attack.

Imagine being attacked by a knife wielding maniac hell-bent on sticking you with a knife.

A spouse, common-law partner, boyfriend or girlfriend or other intimate partner…someone, who in theory at least, is supposed to love you.

Defending yourself from such an attack is an uncontrolled reflex action, to shield the blows, to block each thrust, to do whatever you can to survive.

As the rigid steel penetrates your flesh your desperation increases. After the first thrust you realize the gravity of the situation.  You feel your heart race as the adrenaline kicks in.  When the second thrust finds its mark you feel of sensation of the blood starting to flow from your wounds.

The sensation alerts you to the gravity of the situation.

You realize you could die.

The attack could be fatal.

Your life flashes before your eyes.

Everything slows down, time and space becomes distorted.

The third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth blows blocked by your arms but the efforts to defend fail to discourage your attacker.

The ninth, tenth, eleventh, twelfth, thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth thrusts find their marks.

Your injuries are fatal.

You know it, you can feel it.

Your breathing becomes laboured and shallow, your vision becomes blurred, you start to lose consciousness.

You fade to black.

It’s over.

While I wasn’t there to witness the events, I’ve been to enough autopsies and heard the stories enough times to be able to fill in the blanks.

Just another day in the meat grinder.

On November 1st, 2016 Valerie Assiniboine (58) appeared before Justice James Edmond in the Court of Queen’s Bench to learn her fate after pleading guilty to manslaughter in the death of her domestic partner John David Goundry (51).

I attended the proceedings with fifteen students from the NorthWest Law Enforcement Academy as part of their curriculum for their Court Room Success course.

I was interested to see how they would process the proceedings, specifically, the impression the Courts would make on them regarding the value of human life in the criminal justice system.

The facts of the case were not complex.

A tumultuous relationship, the cycle of domestic violence, addiction and the anticipated outcome.

Justice Edmond underlined the aggravating factors;

  • the brutal nature of the crime highlighted by the 15 stab wounds
  • the callous nature of the crime – the fact the accused left the victim to die after inflicting the fatal wounds
  • the fact the force used was excessive and not reasonable
  • the fact the case involved domestic violence
  • the accused’s criminal record, which included crimes of violence

The mitigating factors were described as;

  • the fact the accused plead guilty and accepted responsibility
  • the fact she appeared remorseful and ashamed
  • the fact a degree of provocation was present
  • the fact the accused has accessed programming and counselling
  • the prospect of her rehabilitation

The Court also considered the fact the accused was an Indigenous person who suffered the loss of parental role models by virtue of the implementation of the Residential School Program.  (Gladue Factors)

Sentencing Principles

Before delivering his decision, Justice Edmond underlined the sentencing principles;

  • denunciation
  • deterrence
  • rehabilitation of the offender
  • reparation
  • proportionality
  • promote a sense of responsibility in the offender and acknowledgement of the harm done to the victim and community

(I’ll leave it up to you to decide if any of these principles were achieved by the sentence imposed in this case.)

The Sentence

Crown Prosecutors Scott Cooper & Alanna Littman joined defence counsel Greg Brodsky in providing a joint ten (10) year recommendation to the Courts.

The Crown acknowledged the accused should receive credit for the 2 years and 5 months she served in pre-trial custody.  The standard credit received for time served is 1.5 days credit for every 1 day served.

There would be no court room drama.

Justice Edmond accepted and endorsed the plea bargain arrangement.

After you do the math Assiniboine was left with a sentence of 6 years and 4 months, but how much time will she really do?

Criminal sentences in the Province of Manitoba can be interpreted in three (3) distinct ways;

  • legally or “on paper”
  • practically – before the impact of parole
  • realistically – the time actually served

In legal terms, or on paper, Assiniboine received a 10 year sentence for her crime.

In practical terms, before the impact of parole, she received a sentence of 8 yrs and 9 months.

In realistic terms, after early release on parole, Assiniboine will likely serve only 1/3 of her 6 year, 4 month sentence.  That equates to roughly 2 years and 1 month.

The sentence breaks down as follows:

  • 2 years, 5 months pre trial custody
  • 2 years, 1 month post conviction with parole
  • Total – 4 years, 6 months

After all the fuzzy math is done, Assiniboine will serve a total of 4 1/2 years in prison for killing her common-law husband John David Goundry.

When you consider the life expectancy of the average male in Canada is estimated at 81.24 years of age you will conclude Mr. Goundry was robbed of approximately 30 years of his life.

The price his killer will pay is 4 1/2 years in prison, an 85% discount on Goundry’s life expectancy.

Life is Cheap in Manitoba

Sadly, there is nothing outrageous about Assiniboine’s sentence.

In terms of sentencing on manslaughter cases, it may be on the high side.

As I reflect on the case a few things occur to me.

There was no public outrage regarding Mr. Goundry’s killing.  No protests, no candle light vigils and no shock or disgust expressed in the media.

Had Goundry been the killer the situation would have undoubtedly been much different.

That’s because the murder of women killed in domestic violence is news in our Country.

The murder of men killed in domestic violence, well, not so much.

There’s another newsworthy angle to the story you won’t read about in main stream media.

Valerie Assiniboine is not likely to be remembered, mourned or memorialized at candle light vigils or have her face plastered on protest posters.

That’s ironic because Valerie Assiniboine is the quintessential definition of the letter “M” in “MMIW.”

The “missing” part.

Not “missing” in the traditional sense of the word but missing by almost any other measure.

She’ll certainly be missing from the lives of her family, relatives and friends.

In fact, she’ll be just as absent in her six children’s lives as her father, a residential school survivor, was in hers.

The cycle seems to remain unbroken.

Just another day in the meat grinder.

Factoids;

Year to date, more than twice the number of Indigenous women in the City of Winnipeg were charged with homicide related offences than were victims of homicide.

2016 Homicide Statistics- City of Winnipeg

  • 4 – Indigenous female victims of homicide (2 cases unsolved)
  • 10 – Indigenous females charged in connection with homicide investigations

Charges:

  • 4 – 2nd degree murder
  • 4 – manslaughter
  • 1 – aggravated assault
  • 1 – indignity to human remains

2 Comments

  1. It seems too obvious to bother stating, but victims and perpetrators often occur in the same environment. There’s more at play than individual choices and responsibility. Trauma underlies much dysfunction and pain in our society, as does poverty. Context matters, and should be a primary consideration when we consider prevention efforts. Are we not condoning the discounting of human potential when we allow trauma and poverty to go unaddressed?

    It doesn’t have to be this way. We are bystanders to the cycle of violence when we see that and do nothing.

  2. The 85% remark is based on an “eye-for-an-eye” concept. It assumes that what the victim lost, the convicted should lose too. This isn’t part of our country’s sentencing principles, and rightly so.

    I actually believe in our sentencing principles, despite how poorly they may be applied sometimes. The courts cannot do anything to undo or correct a violent crime, and they shouldn’t pretend to. I’m probably in the minority here, but I also don’t think the courts should be used to provide a sense of justice to victims or otherwise make people feel good.

    The only thing the courts can and should do is affect the future. They can do this by protecting society from the future actions of violent people brought before the courts. They can deter others from going down the same path. And yes, they should attempt to rehabilitate offenders. Everyone should have the chance to change themselves into a better person. In Canada we seem to lack the concept of an “ex-con” who has paid their debt to society and is given a fresh start.

    This is why the sentence really does need to focus on the offender, and how to best deal with them.

    But our system needs a lot of reform before we will see it achieving these goals. Right now, a judge attempts to assign a time period appropriately necessary to achieve rehabilitation along with deterrence and denunciation. But if you’ll excuse the expression, it’s really just a stab in the dark.

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