The sentencing hearing for Darryl Sheepway, found guilty last year of second-degree murder in the 2015 shooting of Christopher Brisson, concluded April 20 with the Crown and defence disagreeing on how long he should be ineligible for parole.
Second-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for a minimum 10 years. Crown attorney Jennifer Grandy argued that Sheepway should be ineligible for parole for 15 years, while the defence argued that Sheepway should get the minimum.
The proceedings April 20 were prolonged by what the Crown said was an unexpected move by the defence to call Sheepway to testify about conditions at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, which the defence said should be taken into account for sentencing.
On the stand, Sheepway said that, for his first eight months at the WCC, he had “zero” interaction with other inmates and spent about 22 hours in his cell a day.
“I’ve often described it as feeling like torture, because essentially I have absolutely nothing to do except watch TV.… It’s pretty hard to try and deal with that,” he said, adding that the last time he was outdoors was May 2016.
Sheepway filed a petition to the Yukon Supreme Court in February about his conditions, and testified that, the next day, he was suddenly allowed to interact with inmates he had previously been deemed “incompatible” with.
Grandy disagreed that Sheepway’s experience at the WCC had any bearing on sentencing, and argued that the facts of the case demonstrate the need for extended parole ineligibility.
Sheepway shot Brisson as Brisson was attempting to flee, Grandy said, and then, undeterred by Brisson’s death, stole drugs and cash from Brisson’s body before disposing of him at Miles Canyon, actions that show a “high level of moral blameworthiness.”
Grandy cited Sheepway’s poor rehabilitation prospects as another reason to increase the period of parole ineligibility. Sheepway himself testified during the trial that he continued to dream about and crave crack cocaine, she said, and evidence showed that, before his arrest, he attended detox centres, hospitals and rehab without long-term success.
The Crown also requested a DNA order, a lifetime firearms ban and the forfeiture of the shotgun used in the murder.
The defence, however, argued that Sheepway should receive the 10-year minimum and also asked that the firearm ban only be in effect for 10 years. Lawyer Lynn McDiarmid noted that Sheepway will already be serving a life sentence, the harshest punishment possible in the Canadian justice system and something the court must keep in mind.
McDiarmid also disagreed with the Crown’s argument that Sheepway doesn’t have good rehabilitation prospects, arguing that his addiction began and escalated within a short time frame, during which he did attempt to seek help before being arrested. It’s unfair to say that Sheepway’s chances of rehabilitation are poor, she argued, when he hasn’t been given a proper chance to receive programming despite requesting it in jail.
Sheepway’s crack cocaine addiction and the actions he undertook while addicted were also out of character, McDiarmid said. The defence provided the court with 11 letters of support written by members of Sheepway’s family, all of which expressed shock at Sheepway’s current situation and described him as a previously kind, compassionate person.
One of the letters was by Sheepway’s parents, who, along with his younger sister, were present in court Friday. Their letter described him as a “kind, well-rounded person” who was living his dream life in the Yukon before falling into crack cocaine addiction.
“The day he took those terrible drugs is the day we lost our son,” the letter said.
McDiarmid acknowledged that Sheepway did initially lie to police, but has since been honest and forthright, assisting police with a reenactment that was crucial in the investigation and admitting to details that didn’t flatter his case. His cooperation should be a mitigating factor, she argued, as well as the fact that the murder was committed while he was in the throes of addiction, therefore lowering his “moral culpability.”
Sheepway’s other lawyer, Vincent Larochelle, also argued that his client’s experience at the WCC should be taken into consideration, adding that while no one can dispute that Sheepway’s behaviour was bad, it doesn’t necessarily bear on his character as a whole.
Sheepway was given an opportunity to address the court during the defence submissions, during which he apologized to Brisson’s family and maintained that he never intended to kill him.
“If I never tried crack cocaine, I would have never met Chris Brisson. I am truly sorry for what happened to Chris.… I am truly regretful for the horror I’ve put your family though,” he said, adding that not a day goes by where he wishes he never tried crack.
Sheepway also pleaded guilty to nine robberies April 20, which he committed in Ontario after killing Brisson. The Crown asked he be sentenced to seven years on those charges, while the defence argued that a five-year sentence would be more appropriate.
Gower reserved his decision. The court will reconvene May 8 to pick a date for Gower to deliver his sentence and reasonings.
Contact Jackie Hong at firstname.lastname@example.org