Karen Rodrigue will serve a life sentence for the second-degree murder of Gerald Dawson, with parole eligibility after 10 years, Yukon Supreme Court Justice John Vertes ruled on Tuesday afternoon.
Having served four years, Rodrigue could be released as early as 2014.
“I want to tell his family that I hope soon they can find some closure and forgiveness,” said Rodrigue, addressing the many members of Dawson’s family who were present at the proceedings.
“The remorse I feel is unbearable at times,” she said.
“I accept the verdict for myself and for my family.”
On Saturday, a jury ruled Rodrigue guilty of the 2004 murder following almost two weeks of court proceedings.
From the outset, Rodrigue had taken responsibility for the killing, but she sought to receive a charge of manslaughter, arguing that, having just been raped by Dawson, she lost all self control before she stabbed him.
“It is not for me to speculate whether the jury believed this sequence of events,” said Vertes.
“Even if they did, the jury decided that she acted with intent to kill, and had not lost, or had regained, self control,” he said.
The defence noted Rodrigue has excelled during her last four years as a prisoner in Edmonton by obtaining her high school diploma and being an active participant in jail programming.
“She is not the same person she was in 2004,” said Vertes.
A life sentence with parole ineligibility for 10 years is the same sentence that Rodrigue received in her first trial in 2005, noted Vertes.
The maximum period of parole ineligibility for a charge of second-degree murder is 25 years.
The latest trial was granted following a successful appeal in 2007.
In making his decision, Vertes was obligated to consider Rodrigue’s personal circumstances, including her status as an aboriginal woman.
“The offender in this case was exposed to violence and alcohol abuse from an early age,” said Vertes.
At nine years old, Rodrigue witnessed her brother fatally shot by her father, said the defence.
She turned to alcoholism in her teen years, and cocaine use in her late 20s.
By 2002, she had amassed 10 charges on her criminal record ranging from petty theft to violence charges.
“These no doubt played a part in the circumstances that brought this individual before the court,” said Vertes.
“But that is no excuse for the crime committed,” he said.
“There’s nothing this court can do that can repair what has happened to Mr. Dawson, or that can repair what has happened in your life,” said Vertes to Rodrigue.
The period of parole ineligibility does not “fix” a date when the offender will be released on parole, emphasized Vertes.
There is never any guarantee that parole will ever be granted to an offender. If the National Parole Board determines Rodrigue to be a threat after she has served 10 years of her sentence, she can be detained past her eligibility period.
Rodrigue feels “hopeful” about returning to the Edmonton facility and continuing with the programming she started during her previous incarceration, said the defence.
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