Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Stobbe options!

Good Day Readers:

Save for a couple very small exceptions we were present for the entire Mark Stobbe Trial. In what follows, please bear in mind we have no formal legal training. Now that deliberations are underway like you we wondered what are the options. Based on independent research here's what we found.

A Guilty Finding

On a second degree murder conviction Mr. Stobbe would face an automatic sentence of 25-years to life with the possibility of parole after 10-years. However, this is not guaranteed in that the Justice (Chris Martin) could ask the jury after rendering its decision for a recommendation on parole in which case it would be back to the jury room. The 10-year period could be extended, however, His Lordship is not bound by any recommendation He might receive.

The next step would be a pre-sentencing hearing where counsel might argue points of law and victim impact statements are allowed. It would be open to the public.

Just finished a telephone conversation with a helpful Parole Board of Canada official in Ottawa ( Here's our understanding of how the system works:

(1) Justice Martin is required to set an eligibility date for full parole

(2) Seven years into the sentence Mr. Stobbe can apply for day parole. If granted he would be subject to terms and conditions and his situation reviewed every 6-months until his eligibility date for full parole arrived at which time there would be a formal hearing and members of the Robotham family allowed to participate to oppose the application should they so choose. If refused, Mark Stobbe would then have the right to reapply every 2-years thereafter

After a guilty verdict, defence counsel has 30-days to file a Notice of Appeal a rather straight forward document. The labour intensive work is found in preparing the extensive documentation required by the Manitoba Court of Appeal for a complex case of this duration. It's not unrealistic to assume the appeal might not be heard for up to a year or more in which case Mr. Killeen would, in all probability, immediately apply for a bail hearing very shortly after filing a Notice of Appeal.

Second degree murder is a federal offence. As such Corrections Canada determines where Mr. Stobbe would be sent. Since Manitoba does not have a maximum security facility he would likely be sent either east or west. After 2-years, assuming exemplary behaviour, he could apply on compassionate grounds for a transfer to a federal prison closer to his home - ageing parents, to be closer to his family and children, etc.

An Acquittal

The case of an acquittal is a little easier to explain.

If an accused is acquitted in Canada, the Crown can appeal should there be an error in law, that is, an error in a judge's charge or rulings - a printed copy of which is first given to members of the jury then read in open court. In the Stobbe trial that document was about 70-pages long.

Assuming the Court of Appeal ordered a new trial, there is no issue about double jeopardy or "autrefois acquit." Double jeopardy (autrefois acquit) would only come into play if an accused were re-tried on a new related charge (i.e. manslaughter) he had already been convicted or acquitted and there had been no appeal or new trial ordered.

A special thank you to Mr. Tim Killeen and Ms Wendy Dawson counsel to the defandant and the Crown, respectively, for patiently and graceously answering or many, many questions during the trial. Some must have made them cringe they were so fundamental.


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