The search for justice for family members of Tanya Nepinak took a major set back today.
The news just broke that charges against Shawn Lamb have been stayed in connection with the murder of Nepinak.
I wrote a story this morning that I planned on publishing tomorrow examining the nuances of the case. The news of the stay meant some significant modifications.
It seemed Tanya’s case had become lost in all the noise associated with the controversy surrounding Lambs murder confession and subsequent plea bargain. A confession that included an admission to killing Tanya Nepinak and disposing of her body in a garbage container. Police believed that garbage container was dumped at the Brady Landfill site. Unfortunately, a search of the site failed to provide any trace of Tanya’s remains.
The controversial plea bargain saw Lamb plead guilty to the killings of both Carolyn Sinclair and Lorna Blacksmith and resulted in a global twenty (20) year sentence. The plea bargain arrangement dictates Lamb must serve half of his sentence before he is eligible for parole. He will be sixty-three (63) years of age when he reaches parole eligibility. If Lamb serves out his entire sentence he’ll be seventy-two (72) years of age when he’s released from prison.
Aboriginal activists and protestors criticized the plea bargain deal indicating the inadequate sentence devalued the lives of the murdered women.
I’ve made a couple of appearances recently on Charles Adler’s show on CJOB radio discussing various aspects of the case. During my most recent appearance Mr Adler asked me, “Where is Tanya Nepinak?”
It’s was a good question, after all, Lamb still stood charged with Second Degree Murder in her case.
The silence from the Crown on Nepinaks case had been deafening. Not so much as a whisper. Nepinak family members told the press they were being kept in the dark and had heard nothing from Manitoba Justice. It certainly seemed to me that someone from the Prosecutions Branch should have clued the Nepinak family in long before any news of Lambs plea bargain went public. That clearly would’ve been the decent thing to do.
That aside, as I contemplated the case against Lamb it occurred to me the plea bargain struck by Crown Prosecutor Sheila Leinburd could have been a stroke of tactical genius. With Lamb sewn up on two (2) manslaughter convictions, what could the Crown possibly lose by proceeding against him on Nepinak’s Second Degree Murder charge.
Why not take the case to trial and test the confession.
During Lambs sentencing hearing the Crown said, “There are persuasive arguments that can be made on the part of the Crown as to the admissibility of these statements. Equally, there are compelling arguments that can be made by the defence to the exclusion of the statements.”
The logic behind the plea bargain was to mitigate risk and ensure the public was protected from a predatory serial killer. Concerns that were addressed by the Crown in the plea bargain arrangement for the Sinclair and Blacksmith murders.
Defence counsel Martin Glazer had already shown his cards. He intended to try to have the confession excluded on the basis the Police induced Lamb to confess by making a $600 payment to his prison canteen.
Why not let Glazer take his shot.
The fact is, the Police didn’t induce Lamb to do anything. It was the master manipulator himself who initiated contact with the Homicide Unit and brokered the deal that resulted in the confession. The Crown could have argued Lamb fully intended to provide his confession and simply wanted something in return for it. That was not an inducement. That was a manipulative serial killer and experienced career criminal with over one hundred (100) convictions on his record playing a game with Law Enforcement.
I’m willing to bet a good number of Queens Bench Justices would have agreed.
Having said that I realized there were a couple of potential road blocks that stood in the way of any future Shawn Lamb prosecution.
Did the Crown use the Nepinak case as a bargaining chip to secure guilty pleas on Sinclair & Blacksmith? Was there a verbal agreement between the Crown and Glazer that the Nepinak charges would be dropped in exchange for guilty pleas on Sinclair & Blacksmith? Verbal agreements between Crown and Defense are binding. If such agreement existed then all bets were off on Nepinak.
Secondly, in their justification for the plea bargain arrangement to Justice Saull, the Crown essentially conceded Lambs confession was virtually indefensible. How hard would the Crown be willing to fight to prove themselves wrong? The optics would not be good.
Optics aside, I believe the Crown still had public safety and moral obligations to proceed against Lamb for the Murder of Tanya Nepinak.
A second degree murder conviction would have meant Lamb would receive an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for ten years. That sentence would place Lamb under the control and supervision of the Parole Board of Canada for the rest of his life. A second degree murder conviction would likely have meant Shawn Lamb would have died in prison. A fate he so richly deserves.
Why not play your hand if you have nothing to lose.
Unfortunately, we’ll never know if that controversial confession would have been admitted as evidence against the sociopath serial killer.
That, my friends, is a shame.