Curtis Dagenais appeal case denied following court appearance
There will be no second trial for convicted Mountie killer Curtis Dagenais.
Dagenais appeal had its long-awaited hearing Thursday morning at the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal in Regina. After only about 10 minutes of deliberation, a panel of judges firmly rejected his lawyer's arguments.
In 2009 Dagenais was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder and one of attempted murder.
A jury found that in 2006 he had shot Constables Robin Cameron and Marc Bourdages once each in the head; they would die from the injuries sustained in that shooting several days later. A third officer, Constable Michelle Knopp, managed to survive.
The murders hit the community of Spiritwood hard and left two young families broken in the deaths of Cameron and Bourdages.
During the trial Dagenais insisted that he had not targeted the officers. He argued that they had rammed his vehicle after a chase that lasted dozens of kilometres, running his vehicle off the road. He contends that he fired in a blind panic out of fear for his life, calling the incident a case of self-defense.
That idea proved central in the appeal argument Thursday. His lawyer, Prince Albert attorney Peter Abrametz, put forward three reasons why he felt the case should be overturned.
The first centered on the notion that Dagenais acted out of provocation as well as self-defense. Abrametz explained that Dagenais saw the ramming as a means to get a reaction out of him as opposed to a way of stopping the chase.
Crown prosecutor Dean Sinclair argued that notion was completely meritless for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that it directly contradicts Dagenais' own testimony during his trial.
"The Court Of Appeal found that an ordinary person wouldn't have been provoked to murder two police officers simply because the officers tried to get him to stop the chase by ramming his vehicle. That was the first reason. The second reason was they found no evidence that the appellant was actually provoked. His testimony (during the trial) was clear that he was acting in self-defense, a defense that the jury rejected."
Abrametz also suggested that Dagenais' insistence that a piece of key evidence, a videotape from one of the RCMP cars involved in the incident, had gone missing violated his rights. The appeal judges found there was no factual or evidentiary basis for that claim.
A third argument for the defense centered on the idea that the jury should have been instructed that they would have to come to a unanimous decision on each constituent element of the charges against Dagenais in addition to the final verdict. That idea didn't go too far.
"We're unable to accept the argument as Mr. Abrametz acknowledges that there is no precedent to that effect," Justice Robert Richards insisted. "He invited us to crate the first one but we declined that invitation. This interpretation of the jury system would run counter to common sense."
The panel of three judges struck down all three arguments, meaning Dagenais will not get the new trial he had hoped for. Justice Roberts commended Abrametz on what seemed to be a thankless task.
"We don't know how you could do anything more for your client. You had a difficult case to argue," he stated.
Dagenais will continue to serve a mandatory life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years.
Edited by CJME’s Karen Brownlee and Adriana Christianson