Saturday, January 26, 2008

A systemic murder

Another senseless murder of an innocent person committed by someone who should not have been on the streets but for a weak, broken justice system.

Yesterday, police in Calgary charged Christopher James Watcheston, 21, with the murder of Arcelie Laoagan, a 41 year old mother of five whose battered body was found a week ago near a public transit station. He was on bail at the time of the murder.

Lawyer and justice commentator Scott Newark had this to say in an email about this case. It's worth sharing:


So let's see.....guy gets charged with three assaults and doesn't make bail for a couple of weeks. That suggests maybe a history not revealed in story. Shortly after release he commits more crimes...while on bail which is literally a promise he wouldn't commit more crimes if court released him from charges of first set of crimes...but again he is released on bail and now charged in this murder.

A) We should be keeping track of this "profile" because quite literally the state had the capacity to have prevented this crime by taking notice of his continuing criminality but let him go...again....and take a chance...again....

B) There is a need for a review of the circumstances of the release of this person independent of the criminal trial. Did the Crown seek revocation of the original bail and oppose his release. If not, why not? Did the JP or provincial court judge reject such requests and order the release? Did someone say they would serve as a surety to enforce the deceptively described "house arrest".

What's needed is literally an examination of how the means of death came to be in a position to inflict death. These used to be done in Ontario by Coroner's Inquest and we recommended an amendment to the Coroner's Act (akin to when an inmate dies in custody) requiring an inquest when the person that unlawfully kills was released from lawful custody by the state and the amendment also stipulated that the releasing authority...including a judge or a compellable witness. There may be nothing "systemic" about this case but we'll never know if no one asks.

The justice system is about to go into 'we can't talk about it' mode supposedly to protect the accused's right to a fair trial. Co-incidentally it also helps cover the system's ass which is at least partially why these kinds of obviously preventable crimes keep occurring.

Scott's last point is critical. The blatent nonsense so often used by elements in the justice system about why they cannot talk about their incompetence and ineffectiveness protects the system much more than the rights of an accused. That, perhaps, needs to get addressed before much can be done about a fundamentally broken justice system.

Leo Knight

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