POLITICS

Curt Dagenais Appeal: Marc Bourdages' Widow Says Justice Has Been Served

10/21/2012 10:00 EDT | Updated 12/21/2012 05:12 EST
CP
REGINA - A man convicted of shooting two RCMP officers to death argues mistakes were made at his trial, but the widow of one of the Mounties says the allegations are "absurd."

The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal will hear Curt Dagenais' case Thursday in Regina.

Dagenais was convicted in 2009 of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of constables Marc Bourdages and Robin Cameron, as well as the attempted murder of Const. Michelle Knopp. The shooting happened in July 2006 near Spiritwood, Sask.

There are three reasons for the appeal.

One argument is that the trial judge failed to put "the defence of provocation" to the jury, according to court documents.

"Culpable homicide that would otherwise be murder may be reduced to manslaughter if the act was committed in the heat of passion caused by sudden provocation," says the appeal.

"The appellant will argue in relation to the issue of provocation that it did have an air of reality and that this defence should have been put to the jury and that it constituted an error in law not to do so."

The appeal claims the verdict is unreasonable and cannot be supported by the evidence. It also alleges the trial judge made a mistake by giving Dagenais a life sentence on the attempted murder conviction.

Dagenais _ who court heard had been flagged as a police-hater _ admitted he shot the officers but claimed it was self-defence.

The jury heard that the three officers were trying to arrest Dagenais for allegedly assaulting his sister after a family dispute. Dagenais was sitting in his truck outside his mother's house when RCMP arrived. He sped off, sparking a 30-kilometre chase on country roads that ended with a bloody shootout on a remote dirt trail.

Dagenais testified that the officers shot at him first, so he grabbed a rifle from under his truck seat and blindly returned fire to save his own life.

Bourdages and Cameron were both fatally shot in the head.

Knopp was wounded by bullet fragments from blasts that hit the windshield of her police vehicle. The Crown said one bullet came within a centimetre of killing Knopp, and Dagenais likely would have kept shooting had he not already fired off all eight rounds in his rifle.

Defence lawyer Bill Roe argued in the trial that an RCMP radio tape of the chase suggested officers were intent on getting Dagenais "at all costs."

Roe also told the jury Dagenais had a right to be scared, and once officers started firing at him, he grabbed his rifle. He carried the gun with him, like many farmers on the prairies, to kill coyotes on his farm land.

The Crown says in court documents responding to the appeal that "there was no air of reality to the defence of provocation."

"He did not say he lost control of his emotions or acted in the heat of passion. To the contrary, he knew exactly what he was doing and why he was doing it," according to the Crown.

The Crown also says: "(Dagenais) was legally obliged to submit to the arrest and was prohibited by law from resisting arrest, fleeing from the police, driving in a manner dangerous to the public or using a rifle to kill police officers when he was finally cornered.

"Reasonable people obey the law. They do not murder police officers to avoid lawful arrest."

Bourdages' widow, Natasha Szpakowski, said in an interview with The Canadian Press that she is not planning to attend the appeal.

Szpakowski is an RCMP officer based in northern Saskatchewan and has work duties. She also needs to care for her son, Luca, who just nine months old when Bourdages was killed. But she felt it was important to speak up before the appeal.

"I still feel that I need to have a voice for Marc and I know Robin's family is very vocal on her behalf, too. He's not here to stand up for himself," said Szpakowski.

"But for me and my son, I don't really see why there's a point in wasting my day in court to listen to the absurd allegations. I'm already familiar with what the allegations are. It's before the courts now. I trust that they'll take the necessary steps."

Szpakowski said it's Dagenais' right to appeal. However, she sat through the trial in 2009 and thinks it was fair.

"I believe that justice was served when we waited three years for the trial," she said.

"He had his three-weeks trial...the defence lawyer was a part of that jury selection, they gave him his sentence and if he's allowed to have an appeal now, then all I hope is that once that final verdict comes down _ which I trust is going to be that his allegations are preposterous _ that they'll leave us alone and let Marc and Robin rest in peace."