Justice is the time that examines all offenders. – William Shakespeare
Life – 25 years
We really didn’t see past the verdict.
It was suppose to end with that rose-laying ceremony – a kind of funeral.
After a funeral, normally, we would only think of grieving, and getting on with our lives after a funeral. But not in murder.
Even after a guilty verdict – there is still the sentencing. Almost anti-climatic for ous.
Yet there was no denying, Thursday, May 26, 2011, the day of sentencing.
We all came into the courtroom realizing this was very different than a trial, - this was a two-day sentencing.
We were accustomed to the courtrooms already. One looked like the other – except this was on the third floor.
The Judge came in – sat down. There was little ceremony this time.
The Defence lawyer, Saul Simmonds, stood up. “Our view, My Lord, is that none of the materials should be admitted and we should simply not go on.”
His concern was that Grant had signed no consent forms to release the reports. “From our perspective it will just inflame the court…” Simmonds nodded.
The Judge nodded. “I understand what you say.”
Simmonds also objected, saying much of the material was based on summaries and opinions that might not be entirely accurate. He also maintained that since the reports revealed issues that had not been part of the conviction, such as Grant’s long record of sexual deviancy, the reports were not relevant in the sentencing.
It was a long, persuasive speech, but the Judge dismissed it all - ruled to hear the reports.
It was time for the Crown to present Grant’s life. Brian Bell opened with the words. “The Criminal Code enunciates the purpose and principles of sentencing which are... to contribute respect for the law and the maintenance of a just, peaceful and safe society: to denounce unlawful conduct; to deter the offender and other persons from committing offences; to separate offenders from society, where necessary; to assist in rehabilitating offenders; to provide reparations for harm done ... and to acknowledgment of the harm done to victims and to the community. A sentence must be proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender.”
Then the Judge lifted his report – a blue binder. “I have the materials.”
“Yes, you do, My Lord, you should have received them some time ago.”
“There are 16 tabs.”
Then Crown began paging through the binder. Apparently the first tab was a memorandum from Stony Mountain Institution with respect to Mr. Grant.
Bell began with tab 2. “You'll notice, My Lord, that the reports are chronological. They cover a period of, of approximately 10 years from November of 1994 into 2004.” The Judge was paging through his binder. “That's tab 2?”
“Yes, sir, from November of 1994. Mr. Grant is described as uniquely vulnerable to any perception of rejection. With respect to his offending behavior, this involves sexual assault, an indication that at one point one of the victims consented during foreplay but then resisted at one point and he proceeded to force himself. Grant is described as an intensely troubled individual and that cannot be reasonably at issue given his multiple suicidal attempts over the years or at least gestures giving stark testimony to this. He is described as introverted, impulsive, mistrustful, anxious about the future and moderately depressed and his intelligence at that time fell in the low to average range. Mr. Grant had a paltry level of insight into his offending behavior and has difficulty identifying treatment gains from his past program participation.”
The words were swift and damning.
Bell continued to go through the blue binder. The report from 1995 was the same. “Grant is described as anxious, depressed, angry and an emotionally injured individual, consumed with feelings of hopelessness, morbid thoughts and a preoccupation with death. Interpersonally not attached to anyone. He has problems with relationships in general and in particular with women. Described as a very angry individual who could act out his anger in a very primitive, uncontrolled manner, both towards himself and others. He also uses denial as his major defense mechanism. Cognitively, Mr. Grant experiences paranoia, confused thinking and lapses in reality testing. His primitive anger, boundary issues, poor reality testing and general suspiciousness of others suggests that Mr. Grant may be dangerous, in that he could easily act out violently.”
There were questions going through my mind. Why? Why did he do this to women?
Bell continued reading from the report. “Mr. Grant recognizes that his history of sexual assaults was motivated by his passionate, entrenched anger against people in general and women in particular. He grew up hating both women and men, and he uses words such as 'revenge' and expressions such as 'trying to get even' to explain his offending.”
There it was – anger towards women.
“He considers that all women are the same, they deserve to be treated like dirt and they indicate that his, that offending behavior were not crimes born of simple lust. He was not simply lonely and hungry for intimacy, rather he actively sought to use sexual assault to punish.”
But why torture? Why a rope?
Bell continued to page through the blue binder answering my questions. “The thrill of resistance was apparently what most excited him. During his trial proceedings for various offences he admits he got an extra kick from watching his victims squirm. His risk of reoffending in such a way remains significant because he was fully aware of his actions and not simply disinhibited by a toxic influence he might learn to control. And again there's issues about whether or not he continues to take his medication because the effect it has on his libido. He’s been diagnosed as a schizophrenic.
Schizophrenia as a disease could be treated.
Bell addressed that as well. “At the top of page 4 there's concern that, he'll be likely to be noncompliant with his medication simply because this is one of the most common characteristics of those diagnosed as schizophrenic, i.e. in the absence of active symptoms of psychosis, many eventually conclude that medication is no longer necessary. It goes on to say, towards the bottom of the same paragraph, while major mental disorder does not have a strong positive correlation with violence, the presence of command hallucinations is the most dangerous feature of such disorders and it is most strongly associated with assault. Mr. Grant reports that these command hallucinations return easily within a day or two of stopping his medication and again there is the reasonable likelihood that he will stop at some point. The risk of either sexual or nonsexual assault under the conditions of noncompliance with his prescribed medication is, in a word, enormous.”
Some of it was repetitive but even that was important to hear – it was a way of emphasizing, confirming his character.
Bell read from the June 2002 tab. “Grant was diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia and depressive episodes at age twelve…. He has a past history of polysubstance abuse including alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, heroin and LSD. During the admission period he continued to have intermittent auditory hallucinations….The offender reluctantly divulged that he had 'cheeked' his psychotropic medication on two occasions approximately two months ago. This behavior is of concern, it relates to his feelings of losing his manhood because he cannot achieve normal sexual functions.
“Non-compliance with psychotropic medication increases the influence of auditory command hallucinations. He recognizes that his lifestyle contributed to his offending behavior. He understands that his behavior was influenced by his substance use, unwillingness to deal with his mental illness, generalized anger with his negative attitude towards women.”
According to the report, Grant had cheeked or hidden some of his medication then sold some of his medication to other offenders.
Bell continued. “And again he indicates that he'll not take his medications so that he can please himself. He admits though that after not taking his medication, after one or only two days of, of dropping the medication that his sexual and aggressive fantasies increase.”
Then I wondered if this was less important now that he was aging. Was he still a risk now that he was in his forties?
The Crown addressed this as well. “Even though his sex drive may currently be lower than it was in the past, the importance he accords to sexual activity is worrisome and is associated with elevated risk.... Grant may be experiencing a reduced sex drive compared to what he experienced as a younger man and his interest in deviant sexuality may have declined. However, the nature of his offences and prior self-report both suggest that a strong and deviant sex drive has been present and has contributed to sexual offending in the past.”
I wondered about program, had he participated in his own healing program?
Bell continued. “Grant has completed numerous institutional programs and has received extensive individual and group interventions to help him better understand his offending and reduce his risk of re-offense. There seems to be a very consistent pattern by which Mr. Grant is apparently compliant with treatment, but fails to change his risk-related behavior.”
It seemed endless and relentless, the incriminating words, as the Crown continued to read from the report chronicling the years in detail. Grant was taking programs, but not responding, not taking responsibility and cheeking and selling his medication.
Then Bell paused and read the words that were the most illuminating. “Mr. Grant reports he believes he is the devil, reports talking to voices and stated he tells his voices to talk to him at night only. Still does report suicidal feelings on many occasions and violent fantasies, especially when he's off his medication.
“Initially his relationships with staff and his peers, he was initially a model patient. As time progressed ... Grant’s inability to cope was evident. He cheeked and sold his medications and was unable to meet the challenge of full disclosure in his crimes. Statements such as, 'no more aggression than I had to' and 'demons in control' demonstrate minimizing and blaming with reference to the seriousness of his violent behaviors. Grant denied abusive patterns, and blamed his partners for his offences because of unmet demands.”
Bell read that someone reported in 2003 that Grant continued to demonstrate a propensity for sexual offending; his offender's risk of sexual recidivism remained high; and there had been no indication of behavioral change. According to Bell he had demonstrated limited insight into and responsibility for his criminal behavior. Bell continued. “... it seems reasonable to conclude that no adequate community supervision strategies exist that would protect others from the considerable risk of sexual recidivism that Mr. Grant poses at this time.”
According to Bell, the last report was made in 2006 when Grant was released. “At this time he was placed under that recognizance with various conditions and supports in place, including weekly psychotherapy sex offender treatment sessions, he had other community supports. He participated in this for some time but then developed a relationship with a man and his wife that was seen as negative and unhealthy. He began to withdraw from his programming, stopped seeing a psychiatrist, began to drink on occasion, engage in some marijuana use and as a result there was great concern. He had worked sporadically during this time.”
But what alarmed us most was that Grant had told the psychologist that there had been a woman at a bus stop that he was interested in and started stalking her. He had been watching her for several months, waiting for the bus at the same place every day.
Bell asserted that although Grant had been released from prison upon warrant expiry and even though he had considerable community supports, public safety was still a factor.
Then Bell paused and looked up. “Mr. Grant today, My Lord, is 47 years of age.
What I'm saying in response to your question, My Lord, is he's now 47 years of age, he's accumulated 23 convictions.”
“How many? Twenty... three?”
Bell nodded. “His record does not entitle him to leniency. He has spent, not including parole or statutory release, over 20 and a half years in custody. He's been sentenced to just over 15 years in federal penitentiaries. His last federal sentence of the nine years that he was, he was given, and he served until warrant expiry date and was the subject of a Section 810.2 recognizance upon release. They were concerned again for his risk to reoffend and his danger to society.”
Bell turned to Simmonds. “My learned friend may well argue that the reason for Mr. Grant's offending patterns is as a result of his childhood and upbringing, so be it. You have to deal with Mr. Grant the way he is, not the way we wish he is or wish he was, but Grant can put society and women in particular in great danger.”
Bell then referred back to the trial. “The disappearance of Candace Derksen in November of 1984 and the eventual discovery of her body shocked the city of Winnipeg. You heard from the police witnesses back then about the efforts to find her, a young girl with a good family who never made it home from school one day.
“Unlike many other homicides there was no nexus between her and the accused. It was completely random and therefore frightening to society at large. You heard and saw how she was found, hogtied, completely frozen, face down in the dirt in the shed at the brick yard. Mr. Grant has remained silent about these matters, as is his right. Any reasonable member of society would find Grant's actions sadistic and callous. Given the circumstances of her murder, we say this court should asses Grant's moral culpability at the top of the scale in considering raising the minimum parole eligibility, which is what the Crown urges you to do.”
Bell was finished. “Grant had definitely left an impact on many people around him. A long and sad impact.”
The Judge nodded. “Right. All right, thank you, Mr. Bell. Mr. Simmonds?”
Simmonds was on his feet. “May it please the court, at the outset the problem in my view is that justice is not absolute and by that I mean to the court that a proper justice, if there was one, would allow the turning back of the sands of time for the Derksen family but that obviously is an impossibility.
“If there were a true justice, Ms. Derksen would be returned to her family but that can't be achieved by whatever the court chooses to do here today. It's been said that justice cannot be obtained in an absolute in the courtroom and what is expected in the courtroom is a chance of justice and in this case I'm not sure that has been reached either for the Derksen family or for Mr. Grant, nevertheless we're brought here to this point by the decision of the jury.
“I do say to the court, as the court has already surmised as part of the problem from the Defence perspective, I don't know what facts I'm ultimately dealing with, nor really does Mr. Grant and I think that causes part of the problem.”
The Judge replied. “But the sexual references in Mr. Bell's submission are to materials that talk about the less than stellar rehabilitation of Mr. Grant and that's got to be part of my assessment of his character. Now Mr. Bell's not saying that, and he couldn't, that because he has a particular problem apparently with sexual deviance, the offence on which I have to sentence Mr. Grant today is particularly in need of reference to the sentencing materials. He's saying instead on a, in a task where the sentencing judge has to fix minimal parole eligibility, character has to be considered and it's absolutely artificial and intellectually impossible to consider character without considering Mr. Grant's abject failure to present himself as someone who can re-integrate himself without possible danger and why, because of his particular problems relating not only to his psychiatric state but the manifestation of that problem of, of schizophrenia which is, amongst other things, his sexual deviance. I don't know how I can, how I can slice and dice an analysis of his character and not consider that.”
Simmonds continued. “So on the issue with respect to age and character, the court obviously is aware, Mr. Grant was born in 1963. The court got a small taste, unfortunately, of the family. He has no one. He was abandoned by his mother for reasons that are not clear in this process. He's left to his own devices and left in the hands of a father that the material makes very clear was abusive, abused him sexually, physically and emotionally. He was in a position in which he was taunted, hurt, destroyed by the father, ill, depressed, suicidal and schizophrenic.
“By the age of 15 CFS would send him to Florida for treatment where again, according to the materials and the suggestions being made, he was sexually abused by the very staff entrusted to treat him and subjected to that kind of treatment till released at the age of 18. So affected, lonely, frustrated, unsupported and suicide attempts begin by the age of 19 and it's around that period of time that he returns. He's in a position in which he was sent for treatment with respect to these issues and obviously instead of dealing with it in that sense, he becomes even more injured and more affected by the very system that was there to try and assist him.
“So in 1984, that's where he was, to all intents and purposes, living off the street. From time to time having contact with his father who, the very person who had abused him, spending time on different couches apparently, living in holes in the ground and in a position in which Mr. Grant was left in the manner in which the court saw him. I can advise the court as well that here, before I get to the cases that we made available to the court, he has been involved with Sister Tina and also the chaplain at with the Holy Cross parish. I can advise the court that they're Catholic nuns. I can advise the court that they have been involved with him on a spiritual basis since he was brought to their attention and he approached them in 2008. I can advise the court that they have been in consistent contact since that time.
“It started as a pastoral course and since that time he has developed, from their perspective, a deep relationship with God. His prayers, his understanding of those issues has been recognized by them. They continue to see him and communicate with him on an ongoing basis. They feel that the dissipation of any anger is, from their perspective, gone, that he's been honest and dealing with all of the dealings they've had, especially talking about the events, many of which are referred to in the information that my learned friend has talked about which is in the sentencing materials and has been quite remorseful and talking about those things that are referred to in the sentencing material. I can advise the court they continue to have contact with him on at least a once a week basis. They talk about many issues and they have seen a very strong and significant series of progressions.”
At the end of a heavy morning, the Judge called a halt. “It's 1:10. I propose coming back say two o'clock, maybe 2:10 at the latest and I can render my decision. But actually before I do that, I want to ask Mr. Grant - Mr. Grant, would you stand up, please? Prior to my passing sentence which will involve, as Mr. Simmonds would have explained to you, my fixing a minimal parole eligibility date, is there anything you want to say to me?”
Grant said. “No”.
“Okay, thank you. So I'll be back in about an hour.”
“Order, all rise,” said the Clerk, and we all stood up.
When we came back, Mark Edward Grant was sentenced to life in prison with no eligibility for parole for 25 years.
In fact – he received the maximum sentence for first-degree murder.
“These were circumstances that shocked and unsettled the city of Winnipeg,” said Juddge Joyal. “He tied up and abandoned a little girl to be left to the cruelties of a Winnipeg winter.”
Grant had no visible reaction to the sentence.
There was no happiness in this conclusion.
We walked out of the Law Courts Building shortly after 3:30 p.m. with a feeling of hollow sadness and overwhelming grief washing over us.
Another blog of random thoughts.
Knowing - Sentencing: 2011
Often in the course of a work day, I am still being asked how I feel. What difference has the trial made in our lives?
I am still exploring the aftermath of knowing.
The proceedings in the courtroom did affect us. It was amazing how we responded almost in spite of ourselves. We cried, laughed and felt acute pain when certain information was revealed to us.
After the murder, I had no way of knowing what had happened to Candace. As a mother, I need to know how my children are doing. Yet there was an entire piece of Candace’s story that I didn’t know. A person she had encountered along the way home had taken her.
Finding out who this person was, and how it all happened had a huge impact on me.
Before, it was a little like walking along the floor of a canyon, knowing that there was a boulder up on top of the cliff, balanced, waiting to roll down at any minute.
In the aftermath of the conviction, I feel relieved. I have more insight. I might not know every detail, but I do know the gist of the story now, and knowing the gist is really all I will ever need to know in this case, or probably will ever know.
There is nothing up there is no longer a boulder waiting to roll down on top of us. It did come down. but it didn’t hit us, implicate us or destroy us. We felt the wind of a few stones pass us but other than that everything missed us.
We emerge relatively unscathed as we now watch it all roll away from us….
It is still rolling….
“Then I thought, boy, isn't that just typical? You wait and wait and wait for something, and then when it happens, you feel sad.” Sharon Creech
By the way to protect the vulnerable in this story - I am changing their names.
Thank you for reading this first draft. I do apologize for the formatting.
Please write me at email@example.com for any comments - corrections, insights or alerts.