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A BC Supreme Court judge will decide Tuesday if some of those convicted in connection with armed standoff at Gustafsen Lake should be allowed to participate in a traditional native Indian form of sentencing wrongdoers.
Lawyers representing a number of the defendants asked BC Supreme Court Justice Bruce Josephson Friday to consider a circle sentencing ceremony for their clients.
Defence counsel Manuel Azevedo explained that if Josephson agrees to circle sentencing, also known as a healing circle, members of the community would come together and recommend an appropriate sentence. He said the judge would would have the ultimate decision on whether to accept that recommendation.
However, four of the 15 convicted for their involvement in the armed standoff in the summer of 1995 told Josephson they don't want to take part in circle sentencing and just want to get the matter over with as soon as possible.
Jones Ignace and James Pitawanakwat, the only two who are in custody, said they are anxious to be sentenced so they can appeal. Four jurors who helped convict the 15 were among 200 spectators at BC Supreme Court in Surrey to hear Josephson begin the sentencing process. The jurors, who were seen shaking hands with many of the people they convicted two weeks ago at the end of a 10-month-long trial said they will consider taking part in a sentencing circle if one is held.
Sentencing of the 15 people, found guilty of various offences ranging from mischief to property to mischief causing actual danger to life, was adjourned to give more time for defence counsel to prepare their arguments. Sentencing of the 15 people, found guilty of various offences ranging from mischief to property to to mischief causig actual danger to life, was adjourned to give more time for defence counsel to prepare their arguments.
But Crown prosecutor Lance Bernard said he will argue for prison sentences for all of them, including a "substantial period of incarceration" for Ignace. Azevedo said if the judge agrees, he would like to see the circle sentencing take place at Gustafsen Lake around the anniversary date of the armed standoff. Defence counsel Sheldon Tate said it would also be an opportunity to hear from members of the jury, who initially wanted to make a statement after rendering their verdicts two weeks ago.
The jury of six men and six women expressed an interest in making a statement after rendering their verdicts two weeks ago. The jury of six men and six women expressed an interest in making a statement at the time they brought in the verdict, but after being advised by Josephson that there was no process for juries making a statement, they chose not to do so.
However, Josephson did ask the jury after the jury foreman read the 39 acquittals and 21 convictions into the record, if they still wanted to make a statement. They declined.
"This is a chance for everyone to understand what happened and learn something from the outcome," Tate said Friday."It will give jurors a chance to say what they wanted to say when they gave the verdicts. They declined, so we are left in doubt what they wanted to say. The whole purpose is to allow everyone to have their say in circle sentencing."
On behalf of his client, Glenn Deneault, who was found guilty of mischief to property, Azevedo said he has already contacted rancher Lyle James, whose property was the site of the siege, the RCMP and the mayor of 100 Mile House to invite them to participate in a circle ceremony if one is held. He said he would also invite Indian elders and Shuswap band members to take part. Lawyer Don Campbell said one of his clients, Ed Dick, is interested in participating in circle sentencing but is not yet committed. Dick is among four people charged with mischief causing actual danger to life, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison and firearm possession.
Campbell noted his other two clients, Sheila Ignace, who gave birth five days ago, and Flora Sampson are anxious for sntencing to proceed immediately and do not want to take part in circle sentencing. [William Jones] Ignace, who is facing the most serious charges, also asked Josephson not to delay sentencing. He said he also doesn't want to take part in circle sentencing because he doesn't want Josephson to "slough off your job."
Ignace, who has been in custody since Sept. 17th 1995, was acquitted of attempted murder, but was found guilty of mischief endangering life, firearms possession, discharging a firearm at police officers and using a firearm to assault police officers.
James Pitawanakwat, who is the only other defendant, said he's ready to proceed with sentencing Tuesday.
"The sooner the better," he said. "I'm right in the clutches of the colonial system here."
Pitawanakwat told the court he doesn't plan to retain counsel and "will do my own sentencing," prompting Josephson to quip, "I might play a small role in the sentencing if you don't mind."