Crown says he shouldn’t be eligible for parole for another 15 years; defence says 10 is enough
Defence lawyer Peter Ralph and his client Steven Neville, 22, of Paradise, await the start of proceedings in Neville’s sentencing hearing at Newfoundland Supreme Court in St. John’s Wednesday. — Photo by Rosie Gillingham/The Telegram
The Crown says Steven Neville is a violent person who killed a man and tried to kill another in a fit of rage.
The defence says Neville is a youthful offender with a cognitive disability who felt threatened and provoked to do what he did.
The Crown says Neville belongs in jail for between 13 and 15 years.
The defence says 10 is enough.
Justice Carl Thompson will decide which side has more credibility and will deliver his decision on sentencing March 20.
A jury found Neville guilty a few months ago, following a lengthy trial, of second-degree murder in the death of Doug Flynn, 19, and the attempted murder of Ryan Dwyer.
Both men were stabbed repeatedly during a confrontation that happened in the early morning hours of Oct. 9, 2010 on Carlisle Drive in Paradise. Dwyer was badly injured, but survived. Flynn died from a knife wound to the temple.
When the sentencing hearing opened
Tuesday in Newfoundland Supreme Court in
St. John’s, Flynn’s mother, Gloria Bishop, told the court in her victim impact statement that Neville’s crime has had a huge effect on her family’s life. She said her son may not have been perfect, but didn’t deserve to die.
On Wednesday, lawyers had their say on what they believe is the best punishment for Neville.
In his final words, Crown prosecutor Robin Fowler reminded the judge Neville got out of a moving vehicle to confront Flynn and Dwyer, with whom he had been at odds for months.
“Mr. Neville was operating out of anger,” Fowler said.
‘I lost my best friend,’ Dwyer writes
Fowler said Neville should be separated from society “for the protection of the public.”
He pointed out that Neville has a criminal record which includes violent offences, such as assault and uttering threats.
He also said that Neville showed no remorse for what he did. After the incident, Fowler said Neville was still reeling about comments Flynn and Dwyer had put on their Facebook statuses, which he said threatened his mother.
“Anger was the motivation,” Fowler said. “He was angry enough to get out of a moving vehicle to face Ryan Dwyer and Doug Flynn.”
He said the only explanation Neville provided was “they pushed me to do it.”
“Yes, we admit there was a history between them, but at the end of the day, when you look at what happened on Oct. 9, it was all about the fact that Steven Neville was angry.”
Fowler reminded the judge that the jury rejected Neville’s claims of self defence.
Finally, he said Neville’s crimes had a serious impact on many people.
Fowler read out two victim impact statements — one from Flynn’s uncle and the other from Dwyer.
“I lost my best friend. I haven’t been the same person,” Dwyer wrote. “He was always there for me. I will never have a friend like that again in my life.”
Dwyer wrote that he no longer trusts people, has lost countless friends because of what happened and has nightmares that someone is chasing him with a knife.
Since murder carries a mandatory life sentence, the only issue to determine is when Neville can be eligible for parole.
Fowler said he should stay in jail for 15 years — 13 at the least.
However, defence lawyer Peter Ralph argued that 13-15 years is excessive for such a young man.
He said 10 years is more appropriate. Eligibility at 15 years, he added, is usually reserved in cases in which both victims died.
Ralph pointed out that the jury found Neville not guilty of first-degree murder, since there was no evidence of planning and deliberation.
“He was motivated by what he thought were threats to his mother (on Facebook),” Ralph said.
“(Dwyer and Flynn) repeatedly threatened to kill him, repeatedly followed him. It’s tragic and unfortunate, the death of Mr. Flynn, but there are aspects of provocation and self defence here.”
Ralph said Neville did show empathy and had an emotional response to what he did. Neville shed tears Tuesday when Flynn’s mother read her victim impact statement.
“Clearly, he was experiencing sadness and empathy for what happened,” he said. “(After the incident), he’s saying ‘they were my friends.’
“This is not a cold-blooded murder where the person walks away feeling nothing.”
As for Neville’s criminal record, Ralph said none of his convictions resulted in prison sentences.
“He’s had brushes with the law, but not a single offence was serious enough to warrant jail time,” he said.
Ralph said the most important factor to consider in sentencing Neville is his youthfulness — he was 20 at the time of the incident. Since October 2010, Neville has matured a great deal, he said, and will have even moreso in 10 years if he’s granted parole eligibility.
“Mr. Neville also has had continued support from his family and friends,” he said.
“That bodes well for his rehabilitation and reintegration into the community.”