Norman LaRue and Christina Asp’s two murder trials may be the two most costly in Yukon history.
LaRue was convicted of first-degree murder last month for the killing of Gordon Seybold in 2008 and sentenced to life in prison with no eligibility for parole for 25 years. Asp was LaRue’s fiancee at the time of the killing, and was convicted of second-degree murder at a separate trial last year.
Together, the two trials ate up over six months of jury time, plus hundreds of hours of preparation, preliminary trials and police costs.
“An average Yukon jury trial is usually no longer than a work week,” said Nils Clarke, the territory’s director of legal aid.
“Four weeks would have been the longest previous murder trial in the Yukon. Nothing even comes close to this,” Clarke said.
Clarke said that while final costs are not yet known, he estimates that Asp and LaRue’s cases took around $160,000 each out of his budget over the life of the cases.
“It took place over the course of three fiscal years. It had its most intensity when it’s the actual trial,” Clarke said.
Most murder cases cost the taxpayer between $30,000 and $50,000 Clarke said.
The cost of both juries alone was almost $150,000, in part because Justice Scott Brooker increased each LaRue juror’s daily pay from $80 to $100 as compensation for the extreme length and complicated nature of the trial.
Add to that the cost of the two senior prosecutors, and the total comes in around $1 million, and could go higher.
LaRue’s lawyer Ray Dieno said he plans to appeal the first-degree murder conviction. That process could take up two more years, Clarke said.
Christina Asp is also appealing her sentence, which will add costs to the whole case. She is also facing charges of being in contempt of court for refusing to testify at LaRue’s trial.
The other major cost involved is the RCMP sting operation called Project Monsoon that brought down the two killers.
In 2009 Christina Asp was duped into thinking she was being recruited into a powerful crime family that had the power to make evidence disappear.
In reality, she was entirely surrounded by undercover RCMP officers for months. They flew her back and forth across the country, setting up fake illegal scenarios like gun smuggling and extortion, all in an attempt to make Asp comfortable talking about her criminal past.
When she began to open up about the Seybold killing, the crime family convinced her to tell her story to the crime boss, who could then protect Asp.
Asp did just that, and every minute of her confession was secretly tape-recorded. Near the end of Project Monsoon, the undercover officers also convinced Asp that they wanted to recruit LaRue as well. They told him he was being hired as a hit man, and he gave them all the same dirt about his role in the killing as Asp had.
Twenty-five RCMP members were involved in the scheme, which ran for months. The costs are difficult to tally because most of it was eaten up by the officers’ paycheques.
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