A killer has been sent to jail, but in the judge’s eyes, it was a case in which there were no winners.
“This is a tragedy of multiple dimension,” Justice Carl Thompson said in sentencing convicted murderer Steven Michael Neville to life in prison with no eligibility of parole for 12 years.
On one side of the courtroom at Newfoundland Supreme Court in
St. John’s, the family of murder victim Doug Flynn will continue to live in grief with the loss of their loved one.
“(The victim’s mother) and her family have suffered together what has to be overwhelming emotions of shock, anger, emptiness and helplessness,” Thompson said.
Seated with Flynn’s family were family members of Ryan Dwyer, who survived the stabbing, who “has had an emotional crisis to face with the commencement of life-threatening trauma and continuing with his loss not only of his friend Doug, but of relationships with other friends.”
On the other side of the courtroom, Neville’s family and friends must deal with losing the 22-year-old to jail for more than a decade.
“While Steven Neville is the offender and now faces the legal consequences of his actions, he, too, has a mother and family,” Thompson said.
“This tragedy has imposed loss and despair on them,” Thompson said.
Members of both families shed tears as the judge spoke.
The judge had asked Neville to stand to hear his final decision. When Neville sat down again, he tipped his head back and took deep breaths, perhaps absorbing the fact that he will be in his 30s before he will have a chance at freedom.
At the end of proceedings, as Neville was being led out of court, his mother and father waved and spoke a few words to him. A handful of friends called to him and gave a thumbs-up. The victims’ families, meanwhile, hugged and kissed each other.
They declined requests for an interview from reporters.
Neville’s 12 years before parole eligibility will begin from the date he was arrested — Oct. 9, 2010.
That was the day he stabbed Flynn and Dwyer repeatedly during a confrontation on Carlisle Drive in Paradise.
Dwyer was badly injured, but survived. Flynn, 19, died from a knife wound to the temple. The knife had pierced his brain.
A few months ago, following a lengthy trial, the jury found Neville not guilty of first-degree murder, but guilty of second-degree murder in Flynn’s death and the attempted murder of Dwyer.
During the sentencing hearing a few weeks ago, Crown prosecutor Robin Fowler recommended the judge not allow Neville to be eligible for parole for another 13-15 years.
Defence lawyer Peter Ralph said 10-12 years was more appropriate.
In the end, Thompson opted for 12 years, since he believed such an act of violence warranted more than the minimum 10 years parole eligibility, but pointed out there was some evidence that Neville had been provoked.
He said, in the months leading up to the incident, the victims had chased Neville and threatened him.
He said while it gives some explanation as to why Neville lost control, he concluded there was no justification for what he did.
“There is no answer available as to the reason for the level of brutality, the fierce and chilling execution by the offender of his actions and the unrelenting infliction of fatal wounds that occurred in this case,” Thompson said in reading his 36-page written decision.
While there wasn’t sufficient evidence of planning or deliberation, the judge agreed with the jury’s findings that Neville did intend to kill Flynn and Dwyer.
Fowler, who was co-counsel with Jason House, had to leave for another commitment after proceedings and couldn’t speak to reporters, but Ralph — who shared the defence duties with his wife Rosellen Sullivan — told reporters he felt the judge’s decision was “reasonably fair.”
He agreed with the judge’s conclusion that there was provocation.
“We felt the jury should’ve accepted that as a full defence,” said Ralph, who said the element of provocation would have also been a legitimate basis for a manslaughter conviction instead of second-degree murder.
The trial may be over, but the case isn’t yet. Ralph said they plan to file an appeal. “We don’t believe Mr. Neville had a fair trial,” he said. “There were disclosure issues that certainly affected our trial strategy.
He also has issues with the failure of the court to address some of the jury’s questions. However, he said Neville is relieved this part of the process is done.
“I think it’s fair to say it’s been an ordeal for everyone. Certainly, it’s been a long process — well over two years,” Ralph said. “I think he’s anxious to appeal the matter, but I think it’s fair to say he’s glad this trial is over.”