A former Manitoba Deputy Attorney General says the reason for a second-degree murder charge in the horrific stabbing death of three-year-old Hunter Haze Straight Smith is likely due to a very narrow definition of what constitutes first-degree murder.
Local lawyer Bruce MacFarlane told 680 CJOB that there are only a limited number of circumstances that can support a first-degree charge, citing the killing of a police officer and killing in the midst of a kidnapping or sexual assault.
“The facts as we know them can only be described as horrific, appalling, revolting… but that’s not the basis for a charge,” said MacFarlane.
“The key here is whether the Crown and the police can show that the killing was planned and deliberate. I think it’s fairly clear the killing was deliberate, but the key is whether it was planned, and I’m not sure about that.
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“Whether if it was, for instance, a last-minute decision, whether it was not considered, whether it was impulsive… but we don’t know the evidence that led to a second-degree murder charge.”
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The accused, 33-year-old Daniel Jensen, is also charged with an earlier assault on the young child’s mother.
Investigators allege Jensen was with the child’s mother, Clarise Smith, at a Main Street bar when the two got into a fight and she was assaulted.
They say he then went to a home in the 300 block of Pritchard Avenue, where three-year-old Hunter was stabbed multiple times.
MacFarlane said there’s a big difference between first- and second-degree murder charges when it comes to sentencing.
“It’s life in prison for both,” he said. “The difference is the point at which you might become eligible for parole.”
On a first-degree conviction, he said, the perpetrator is only eligible for parole after 25 years. For second-degree murder, that’s reduced to 10 years, but the judge can use his or her discretion to increase that if necessary.
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